Arirang…

You probably will never guess where my friends took us for dinner on our second night in Auckland, New Zealand – they took us to this Korean restaurant

Korean dinner 1

…in the CBD in the city. I understand it is very popular and  famous, having had people like the NZ Prime Minister, John Keys, dining there before.

It’s a very nice place, no doubt…

Korean dinner 2

…with its traditional Korean table setting and sitting…

Korean dinner 3

…and looking at the number of people there that night, there is no doubt that it is the favourite of many…

Korean dinner 4

We have a Korean restaurant in Sibu and it has been around for many years. I do not dare say how authentic it really is and it has been many many years since we last dropped by. What I remember clearly is that after eating there, our clothes would stink quite terribly…and they did serve kimchi there – just that I tried a bit but I did not like it, not at all. That was so long ago, and I wonder if Melissa can still remember ever going there to eat – she probably was still very young then. Well, she certainly looked very happy…

Korean dinner 5

…to be able to try some authentic Korean food at this restaurant that night.

We were served these for starters…

Korean dinner 6

…and whatever they were, they were all very nice and we all loved them a lot!

All these were served as the sides…

Korean dinner 7

…that came together with the mains. I particularly loved the one in the middle – the one that looked like something made using tung hoon ( glass noodles).

I don’t know what dressing they used but I loved the salad they had on the left…

Korean dinner 8

…so much so that I kept eating and eating it until my friend asked me to stop in case I would be too full as the best was yet to come.

They had some dip that looked like sambal belacan

Korean dinner 9

…but of course, that was not what it was. I did try a bit but no, thank you. I think I would stick to our good ol’ sambal belacan anytime. Hehehehehehe!!!!!

I think this soup came with the rest of the sides too…

Korean dinner 10

…but if you asked me, I would just say it was different – pretty ok, not bad…but different and not something that would see me going back for more.

We did order the bibimbap, beef, as well…

Korean dinner 11

 I liked it very much – it was pretty good and a complete meal by itself actually.

My friend ordered a whole lot of things for us to enjoy that night but I can’t for the dear life of me remember any of the names as they were all in Korean. All I know would be that we had beef…

Korean dinner 13

…and chicken…

Korean dinner 14

…and even pork…

Korean dinner 15

…marinated in different ways, including one at least that was very spicy. All of them were good – everything tasted great but I simply cannot put my finger on one to say this was the best! I enjoyed them all…

Korean dinner 16

For one thing, they had these huge exhaust pumps right above the grills…

Korean dinner 17

…so all the smoke and the smell would be sucked out during the process of the grilling and that was why our clothes did not stink of the food by the time we finished dinner and were about the leave the place.

Other than that, they had this pretty Korean girl to do all the grilling and serving at our table…

Korean dinner 18

…so all we had to do was to sit back, relax and enjoy ourselves eating all the very delicious Korean fare.

Unfortunately, though I know it is the favourite of many and many would be shocked  to hear it, I’m afraid I still have not changed my mind about this –  the kim chi

Korean dinner 19

Sorry, my friend, but I just can’t get myself to like it…and I don’t foresee ever acquiring the taste for it and liking it ever. Well, at least Melissa and the mum loved it so as Meatloaf would sing, two out of three ain’t bad…and the fact that it did not go down too well with me would not change the fact that it was, without doubt, a delightful evening and we had a wonderful never-before authentic Korean experience and truly felt that the dinner, as a whole, was absolutely great – a zillion thanks.

Port of call…

In my previous post, I mentioned that we went for coffee at Devonport, the so-called Auckland’s Crown Jewel

Devonport 1

One thing that impressed me greatly when I was in New Zealand…or Auckland specifically (If I’m not mistaken, in Wellington, pedestrians cross the streets at the traffic lights junctions…or at least, that was what I saw mostly) was how they have so many zebra crossings here, there and everywhere and how the cars would stop and wait patiently no matter how fast or how slow those people may be. Try doing that here and see if you get run down or not! Tsk! Tsk!

After the drinks and desserts, we walked around the place and bought some stuff. They sell all the UK-imported things in this building…

Devonport 2

I went to the park where there were some people lazing around enjoying the summer sun…

Sunny

…and listening to the  band performing on stage…

On stage

It wasn’t my kind of music – sort of punk rock or something like that so I did not stay to listen. I would very much prefer the busker at the Farmers’ Market in Parnell anytime.

I stumbled upon this little war memorial…

War memorial

…and my attention was drawn to the plaque at the bottom by the side of the statue…

Plaque

Correct me if I’m wrong but I think Malaya 1952-66 would be during the time of the Communist insurgency, I suppose…and Borneo, 1964 to 1966 would probably be the period during the confrontation with Indonesia.

They still have the old-time letter box there…

Letter box

…except that it is made of plastic and not cast iron like those in the past.

But what I loved most in Devonport were these woolly poles…

Wooly poles

My friend, Opal, in the US of A would probably love to see them too.

I guess this was a frog…

Frog

…and this one, a flower…

Flower

…while this one was a very nice bee…

Bee

Now, what do you think these were?

Willy warmers

Somebody said that they were “willy-warmers” and I actually believed that…until my daughter came along and said that it was a ladybird…

Ladybird

…and those  were the legs of the insect! Muahahahahaha!!!! Willy warmers indeed! That was soooooo hilarious…but it certainly added to the fun and laughter on that very enjoyable tour of ours to this very lovely place!

Next stop – dinner…on our 2nd night in Auckland! Stick around, folks!

Just desserts…

After our tour of the scenic spots in Auckland, my friend and her family took us to this cafe in Devonport for coffee…

Mel's mochaccino

I guess you all can easily guess which one was mine…

Iced long black

Melissa saw the seafood chowder on the menu…

Seafood chowder

…and could not resist ordering that despite the fact that we had had a really heavy brunch. I tried a bit but I thought it wasn’t all that great. My friend said that they would be taking us some place else sometime where the seafood chowder would be simply out of this world…but you’ll have to wait awhile till we come to that.

We ordered some of the desserts to share like this one, for instance…

Dessert

…which was jolly good and so was the chocolate lava cake that we had…

Chocolate lave cake 1

As you can see, it was very nicely done…

Chocolate lava cake 2

…and it tasted great.

The apple crumble that I requested for…

Apple crumble

…turned out somewhat disappointing as it was a little bit too sour for my liking and fat people, as you all know, do not quite fancy sour stuff.

The one that stood out among all our orders and stole the show was this crème brûlée…

creme brulee

…which swept me off my feet. I had this once in Penang but it certainly did not get me jumping for joy and since then, I never wanted to order that anywhere else.

While we were there, we spent sometime touring this suburb town and dropping by the shops – details and photos on that coming up in the next post.

In the meantime, we headed on back to the house where my friend insisted that we tried the Greek sweets and desserts that she had bought at the Parnell Farmers’ Market earlier that morning. These baklava are supposed to be the favourite…

Baklava

…but it was a bit too sweet for me. I liked the rolled version, the saragli, a little bit more as they were not as sweet but I loved these the most…

Greek pistachio dessert

The filling was made of crushed pistachio and was more savoury than the other two and I enjoyed it a lot.

Well, the feasting certainly did not end there for the day…for after a bit of rest, we were on the road again – on our way to dinner! No wonder by the end of our stay in Auckland, I was literally bursting at the seams, eh? Wink! Wink! LOL!!!

Up the hills…

After that ultra-heavy yum cha brunch, we certainly needed a bit of exercise so we went sightseeing at places up and down the hills around Auckland City.

First stop, One Tree Hill

One Tree Hill

When I first came here in 1980, there was indeed one tree at the top of the hill but if I’m not mistaken, eventually, some political activist went and chopped it down so the tree wasn’t there anymore.

This was the view of Rangitoto from the hill…

Rangitoto from One Tree Hill

…and here is Melissa with the city skyline in the background…

Mel @ One Tree Hill

You can see from the smiles on her face in all her photographs that she was very happy all throughout our stay in Auckland with our awesomely wonderful hosts.

Hmmmm…somebody obviously had a bit too much time on his hands, it seemed…

Special message

Next, we proceeded to Mt Eden

Mel @ Mt Eden

…where one would be able to see the volcanic crater…

Volcanic crater at Mt Eden

…and walk around the rim. I did not, of course – the word does not exist in my vocabulary…so I just spent my time snapping more scenic photographs while waiting for the rest of them to come back. You can see the Sky Tower and the Harbour Bridge in this one…

Auckland from Mt Eden

…and this is the shot of One Tree Hill from Mt Eden…

One Tree Hill from Mt Eden

Our last stop that afternoon was at North Head

Breathtaking view from North Head

…and again, one would be able to get a nice view of the city from the look-out point at the top of the hill…

Auckland from North Head

Actually, I had been to the first two of the three places before but things certainly seemed so much nicer when one was in the company of great friends, don’t you think? We certainly enjoyed the tour and at the end of it all, my friend said that it was time for tea…but that would be in the next post. Make sure you come back for that, ok?

All things considered…

After our visit to the Farmers’ Market at Parnell in Auckland, New Zealand, my friend and her family took us for dim sum or what they call yum char there, at this very posh and expensive-looking Chinese restaurant

Grand Park, Auckland

…at Alexandra Park there.

Let us look at the things that we had and we have here, like the char siew pao (barbecued meat steamed buns), for instance…

Yum char 1

Theirs were very nice and I loved the filling…

Yum cha 2

…but they were very small – maybe half the size of what we have here…or three-quarters, give and take a little. We also shared the porridge and I would say that it was really very nice as well.

The siew mai (meat dumplings) were very good too…

Yum cha 3

…but I had better har kau (prawn dumplings) elsewhere…

Yum cha 4

One thing I noticed when I was in New Zealand was that they had awesome crayfish and scallops and mussels and everything but their prawns were not as nice as the ones we have at home, or not the regular ordinary ones, at least.

Their chee cheong fan was great too…

Yum cha 5

…and the skin of the yam puffs…

Yum cha 6

…was excellently done. Melissa and my missus loved them a lot but I was not too crazy about the filling – I think I am more accustomed to the char siew filling in our yam puffs here, the one they have in their char siew pao.

This was their fried fish balls in curry…

Yum cha 7

The balls were fine – very firm and springy, no fishy smell but when it comes to curry, I guess the Chinese would have to take a back seat – definitely nowhere near my friend’s nyonya chicken curry that we had the day before when we arrived in Auckland.

These were tofu slices with fish paste toppings…

Yum cha 8

…if I’m not mistaken and they had brinjal…

Yum cha 9

…too and something wrapped in bean curd skin…

Yum cha 10

Those reminded me of yong tofu, the dry version.

These would have been really nice – prawns on toast…

Yum char 11

…had the prawns been as sweet and succulent as the ones we have here and I think I had better beef balls…

Yum cha 12

…before when the Shanghai chef was still in town at the dim sum place here.

Everybody enjoyed these sotong (squid) sticks…

Yum cha 13

…and the roast pork belly…

Yum cha 14

…was simply out of this world! Yum! Yum!

I’ve never been a fan of these…

Yum cha 15

…but theirs were pretty good.

Hmmmm…I can’t seem to remember what these were…

Yum cha 16

…or what they tasted like. Looks like I will have to go to Auckland and my friend will have to take me here again! Hehehehehe!!!!

The lau sar pao

Yum cha 17

…were, at best, just ok. They were not so generous with the filling which was not as goo-ey as elsewhere so much so that I had to press the bun a bit to get it to flow out…

Yum cha 18

…but I loved this a lot! It is something that I have not seen anywhere else (…not that I’ve been to a lot of dim sum places! Wink! Wink!). It is yew char koi wrapped with chee cheong fan skin and served with a special chocolaty sauce…

Yum char 19

Not exactly sweet, great fusion between the east and the west.

I came across this webpage and it seems that the restaurant has been getting not-very-flattering reviews from diners who have been there before. I would agree with those who said that the people were very rude – I thought the older (Chinese) ones were definitely no Miss Congeniality, like the people in Hongkong when we went there in the 80’s. The younger ones were very nice and friendly though – probably part-timers, university students working on weekends to earn a bit of pocket money.

I must say, however, that it is somewhat true what one said that one should “bring someone who speaks Chinese if you want to find out what you are eating”. We had a bit of difficulty describing what we wanted to the older lot – things that  my friend and her family had before and would like us to try. The younger ones weren’t so much of a problem. I did not know of any time limit given and the only hitch we had was that we arrived before the carts came out at 10.30 and the old waitress insisted that we should order from the menu and did not look too pleased when we insisted on waiting.

Personally, I would not think it was as bad as how some of those people put it in their comments. I guess those of us over here who are more accustomed to such rowdy or  boisterous, eat-and-run dining conditions would not feel ill at ease at places like this. I don’t know how much all that cost though – my friend and her hubby would not let me pay for anything no matter how bad I felt about them footing the bill ALL the time…but I am pretty sure that it cost a bomb!

Thank you so much, nonetheless, for the yum char feast! All things considered, it definitely was a great brunch and we enjoyed it very much. Thank you…thank you…thank you!

The market…

That first morning in Auckland, New Zealand, my friend and her family took us to the Farmer’s Market at Parnell

Market 1

They call it the French Market as it is supposed to have a French theme.

Strawberries were in season so we saw lots of those and they were pretty cheap too…

Market 2

I think these were organic breads…

Market 3

See if you can identify which one I think looked like a character in Sesame Street. LOL!!! (Oops!!! According to my friend’s hubby, they’re dog biscuits. Vitamin sticks! Hmmmm…whoever said, “It’s a dog’s life,” is sadly mistaken!)

This one sold freshly-made gourmet sausages…

Market 4

…with all kinds of names that I had never heard of before. One could help oneself to the samples – I certainly loved that! Wink! Wink!

The lady here was selling whoopie pies and whoopie pops…

Market 5

…but I was saving tummy space for brunch so I did not get any to try.

At another stall, one could easily see that they were all gearing up for Christmas…

Market 6

Everything looked so pretty!

More sausages, anyone?

Market 7

These were smoked and cured chorizos and the like, if I’m not mistaken.

Now, this man was definitely not French – he was Italian and he made these stuffed pastas…

Market 8

…for sale at the market.

There was a stall selling fresh raw oysters but of course, I would not touch them with a ten-foot pole. If you’re one of those oyster-lovers, remind me to tell you my “looks terrible, smells terrible, feels wonderful” story when we get to meet. I’m afraid I cannot share it here as it is not very suitable for general consumption. Rancangan ini sesuai bagi semua lapisan masyarakat! LOL!!! 😀

I did buy these oyster fritters though…

Market 9

…at NZ$10 for three. My daughter loved them but not me. They were not like the fried oyster fritters that I used to buy at The Fish Shop, a New Zealand franchise that had outlets in Malaysia at one time, and loved a lot. The batter came across to me like some kind of pancake and the oysters were pretty much uncooked – raw! I just tried a bit and that was it. Give me our or chain (oyster omelete) anytime! Hehehehehe!!!!

There was a pâtisserie in the adjoining building…

Market 10

I did not buy or try anything there either.

Well, what I enjoyed most here was the very nice songs rendered by this busker at the market…

Market 11

…so much so that I found some place to sit and listen to him sing. Actually, I thought he looked like Willie Nelson and sounded like him too. He sang some of my favourite Christmas songs like “The Christmas Song” and “Have yourself a merry little Christmas” so beautifully that I was wishing I could get up and dance but unfortunately, my missus and everybody else were pre-occupied somewhere in the market, totally engrossed in looking at the things that they were selling.

All too soon, we had to adjourn some place else for brunch so I had to no choice but to get up and leave. I walked out of the place, crooning along to the lovely singing in the distance…

When the sun goes down…

After that very heavy but absolutely superb welcoming lunch, my friend and her family took us on a drive to enjoy the captivating sights along Bucklands Beach

Rangitoto
*Rangitoto*

…and also at Musick Point

Musick Point

I don’t know why it was thus named as there wasn’t any music anywhere to be heard nor was there anybody around who was sick of Man United! LOL!!! It certainly is a beautiful place – a great look-out point at the beautiful scenery in and around Auckland, New Zealand.

It was almost sundown when we got to Ponsonby and I managed to catch a nice shot of the Sky Tower at dusk…

Sky Tower at dusk

We dropped by this place there…

Burger Wisconsin

…that claims to be the “home of the world’s best burger” . I had a look at the menu and for obvious reasons, I simply could not resist ordering…

Menu

…the Full Monty…

The Full Monty

Just one look at it and you will know that it is way better than any that one can get from any of the fast food joints around. Despite being still very full from lunch, I enjoyed the gourmet burger so much – a really satisfying meal indeed…along with the sides that we had – some onion rings…

Onion rings

…and kūmara fries…

Fries

…with their special dips. Thankfully, the place seemed very popular and many of the eateries and pubs there were all so crowded and because of that, we had a bit of difficulty looking for a parking space and in the end, we managed to find one quite a distance away. The walk certainly did me good and on the way, I saw this graffiti on the wall that was rather pleasing to the eye…

Auckland graffiti

After dinner, we went on a drive along Franklin Road to see the Christmas lights. We did not stop anywhere to snap some photographs though but if you are curious as to what it looked like there, you can click this link here to watch the video. You will get to see all the awesomely beautiful festive decor on the houses all along that street…and they even changed the lighting at Sky Tower by night to the Christmas colours – red and green in keeping with the joyous festive season.

Our stay in Auckland certainly got off to a wonderful start, don’t you think? Well, do stay tuned for more…!!!

Welcome…

My friend’s hubby met us upon arrival at the domestic airport terminal in Auckland that day when we flew in from Wellington. It was so nice of him to take the whole week off so that he and his family could spend all their time with us, taking us here, there and everywhere in and around the city and bring us to eat…eat…and eat…nothing but the best in town.

My friend thought that we might be missing the stuff back home and could do with a little break from all the western food that we had all this while in Wellington so she cooked her very special nyonya mee siam for us…

Mee siam

Oooooo!!! It was so very nice and I certainly was delighted that I could get to sit back and relax and enjoy it without having to go through all that hassle.

There were these very nice roti jala as well…

Roti jala

…that went so very well with her authentic nyonya chicken curry…

Curry

She also made some Hokkaido cupcakes…

Hokkaido cupcakes

…which were really good, way nicer than those I bought from the bakeries back home, and I loved her red velvet cupcake a lot too…

Red velvet 1

It was not dry inside and was superb with the cream…

Red velvet 2

We also had this pavlova

Pavlova 1

– something that I had tasted before but I did not like it as it was way too sweet for my liking but even though my friend insisted that it was not all that successful and had not turned out the way it should, I quite liked this one as it was not that sweet…

Pavlova 2

Still, being rather impartial to sweet stuff, I would rather go for the savoury stuff like my friend’s out-of-this-world curry puffs but that will be in a  later post – we did not have that as part of the welcoming lunch.

We were served this special kiwi classic drink to wash all that down…

L & P

…and if you think that was it for the day, think again! There was more to come but that would be in the next post!

Stick around, folks!!!

Fly away…

We were blessed with beautiful sunny but cool weather throughout the duration of our one-week stay in Wellington, praise the Lord but as we were leaving on the 14th of December, I could see the dark clouds gathering…

Clouds

…over Wellington airport…

Wellington airport

The airport is rather small especially considering that this is the capital city of the country but it is very nice inside…

Mel @ Wellington airport

…and like everything and everywhere else around here , there is always something there to remind you that you are in Middle Earth…

Orc

I like this one – it looked like that mean-looking Gollum, originally known as Sméagol (or Trahald), was stretching out to grab hold of Melissa…

Mel & Orc

They seemed to be promoting their sunny summer Christmas here in New Zealand…

Sunny summer Christmas 1

…so they had these bean bags all over for people to sit while waiting for their flights…

Sunny summer Christmas 2

There are seats all over, of course and some saw it fitting to occupy more than one, it seemed…

Comfortable

We flew via their national airline to Auckland…

Air New Zealand

…where we spent the next 6 or 7 days in the country. I texted my friend to ask her if we should have lunch at the airport before take off but she replied, “Don’t you dare put anything in your mouth before you get here!” so we did not get to try any of the stuff that they had at the many food outlets at the airport.

Initially, I had wanted to include the welcoming lunch we had upon arrival there in this post but there was so much to eat and so many photos that I reckoned it would be better to have all that in a separate post. Do come back tomorrow to see what we had in store…waiting for us in Auckland, the City of Sails.

Something about December…

Lights around the tree
Mama’s whistling
Take me back again
Something about December

Christmas is in the air @ Remuera, Auckland
*Christmas cheer @ Remuera, Auckland*

We’re hanging mistletoe
And hoping that it snows
I close my eyes and then
I can still remember
How to get back home

NZ Christmas
*Christmas is in the air @ my friend’s house in Auckland, New Zealand 1*

Let all your memories
Hold you close
No matter where you are
You’re not alone
Because the ones you love are never far
If Christmas is in your heart

Christmas in NZ 2
*Christmas is in the air @ my friend’s house in Auckland, New Zealand 2*

Who really needs a gift
When love is meant to give

Christmas (& birthday) presents to the Wee's...
*Christmas (& birthday) presents from my friend & her family to the Wee’s*

I can still recall
Carry with me always

From Mandy
*Layer cake from Lavender from Mandy*

Every Christmas dream
They live in you and me

From Quay Po
*Christmas presents from Quay Po Cooks*

Let all your memories
Hold you close
No matter where you are

Christmas in NZ 3
*Christmas is in the air @ my friend’s house in Auckland, New Zealand 3*

You’re not alone
Because the ones you love are never far
If Christmas is in your heart

3 wise men
*The Three Wise Men @ Cambridge, New Zealand*

Lights around the tree
Mama’s whistling
Take me back again
There’s something about December

Nativity
*Nativity scene @ Cambridge, New Zealand*

Let all your memories
Hold you close
No matter where you are
You’re not alone
Because the ones you love are never far
If Christmas is in your heart
You’re not alone

A BLESSED CHRISTMAS TO ONE & ALL. MAY THE JOY AND LOVE OF THE SEASON FILL YOUR HOMES & YOUR HEARTS TODAY AND EVERY DAY THROUGHOUT THE COMING YEAR.

Footnote:
Text in this blogpost from my favourite Christmas song for 2012 by Christina Perri, alongside this beautiful one by Richard Marx.