Back in Thailand - Manee Thai Restaurant

Sharon and I were heading out for the evening to see a local jazz band- 'Cole Porter and Me' at our favourite local jazz bar Fat Eddies. Fat Eddies is a New York style jazz bar in SOL Square that we frequently visit to listen to bands and have a dance!

Short for time, we decided to find a quick bite to eat on our way into town. Christchurch has so many restaurants that we had barely walked 2 blocks and we had several places to choose to eat from.

A small Thai restaurant on Christchurch's infamous Manchester Street called Manee caught our eye. Despite the fact that the restaurant was mostly empty at the time, they assured us that they were fully booked and on the promise that we would be quick, they let us have a table.

The restaurant was fairly small, but had a warm and casual appeal to it with simple tables and a bare red brick wall with interesting wooden fish decorations.

here fishy fishy fishy!

We were in a hurry, so we ordered straight away. We decided on the Gai Yang which are chicken nibbles with dipping sauce, Gaeng Subparot which was a red curry with coconut milk and pineapple, and a pot of Jasmine Tea.

The restaurant started to fill with people quickly and less than 15 minutes after we had arrived the place was packed! I guess they were fully booked after all. Our food was served up remarkably quickly, which was great, because aside from being in a hurry I was really hungry!

First up was the chicken nibbles, which were very tasty and held a striking similarity to buffalo wings (Sharon got all excited as Buffalo Wings are on her Top 10 list of Favourite Snackage Items). They were hot and spicy and came with some tasty sweet Thai chili sauce for dipping.

chicken nibbles...similar to Buffalo wings

Whilst we were eating there were a number of delicious dishes that were carried past us on their way to other tables - all the food looked great!

We had barely finished our chicken and the red curry arrived - and damn was it good! It had that distinctive red curry flavour and was quite spicy, however, it was softened by the coconut milk and the pineapple created a really nice contrasting flavour.

Quickly finishing off the last of our jasmine tea we paid the bill and headed off toward SOL square to see the band at Fat Eddies. We decided that it might be best if we sat down for a bit and just listened to the band before we launched into having a dance since we had just eaten all that food!

Jasmine tea - Yum!

Overall it was a great little Thai place, that we would definitely go back to again. It was quite well priced, costing only about $25 to feed both of us! Yummy and cheap – that's a winning combo!

2 comments Posted by B on Monday, April 28, 2008

Operation Dumpling Slideshow

Here is a selection of photos from the operation dumpling missions!

0 comments Posted by B on Sunday, April 13, 2008

3 meats in Italy

Last Thursday Brence and I decided to have spaghetti for dinner. We were going away for the weekend and wanted some leftovers to take with us to eat at the campsite in Kaikoura where we were going to be staying, and spaghetti seemed to fit the bill.

Because we eat spaghetti fairly regularly, it actually only dawned on me late Thursday afternoon that spaghetti could warrant an Operation Dumpling map pin! I decided that it would have to be a pretty bang-up effort to deserve a pin - not just the usual sauce-out-of-a-jar affair - and so I made a beeline for the supermarket to get authentic Italian supplies.

I emerged from the supermarket feeling totally triumphant. Ingredients purchased for the Italy-pin-winning dinner included:

a bottle of imported Italian red wine

a loaf of ciabatta bread

italian pepperoni

minced beef


a jar of imported Italian tomato puree

red and green capsicum (bell peppers)

courgette (zucchini)




fresh tomatoes

and generic mixed "Italian herbs"

ingredients at the ready... and as Italian as 2 hours' notice would allow!

... so you see I really was trying to go for as much Italian-ness as possible, while still retaining the 'quick and easy-ness' of making a spaghetti dinner. Maybe next time we'll bake our own ciabatta. And yes, that's a bag of penne pasta not spaghetti, so technically this is penne. But really when you say "spaghetti" you're more often referring to the tomato-y sauce, not the type of pasta (my foodie friend Colin is going to KILL me for saying that!)

So. I got to Brence's place before he got home from work and started cooking. Over the past few months we have developed our own special recipe for spaghetti sauce, which evolved partially from Sharon's previous tendency to put pepperoni in her sauce coupled with Brence's universal theory of Bacon Improves Everything.

So, without further ado, allow me to present the recipe for Sharon and Brence's Patented 3-Meat Spaghetti.

1. sautee chopped onions, add generous amounts of streaky bacon cut into small pieces and cook

One, one meat in the spaghetti!

2. Chop up pepperoni into small chunks and add to the mix, cook for a few minutes

Two, two meats in the spaghetti!

3. Add a ridiculous amount of minced beef and cook until browned

Three, three meats in the spaghetti - aah aah aaaahhhhhh!!! (thunder and lightning...)

4. Add chopped veggies (courgette, mushrooms, capsicum and tomaotes), capers, olives if you like that kind of thing, as well as a butt-load of fresh herbs, ripped up all rough and Jamie Oliver-styles.. (Brence and I are fans of Jamie, for popularising the 'just chuck it in the pan' method of cooking)

A feast fit for Jamie's table...

5. After the veggies have cooked for a bit, add a heap of sauce, either store-bought-from-a-jar or made up of tinned chopped tomatoes and some tomato paste to thicken it up. Let simmer for yonks. Add salt, pepper and Italian herbs to taste.

Oh yeah, simmer baby!

While the sauce simmered and the pasta was boiled, it was time to have some Italian inspired pre-dinner snackage.

Italian red wine, ciabatta bread, Italian olive oil & Italian balsamic vinegar dip, and cheese.

The only non-Italian thing involved was the cheese, which was a really lovely camembert. I looked high and low in the supermarket for an Italian cheese suitable to have with bread (e.g. not parmesan), but alas the only types of cheese I could find were English, French and Dutch. So I make my apologies for having a small part of Italian night come from France, but there you go.

Buon appetito!

Dinner is served, and we take up our positions to "ciao down" and watch some classic Three's Company episodes

Hey-a, that's-a some good pasta!

Another pin in the map!

1 comments Posted by Sharon on Tuesday, April 08, 2008

A brief stop at Thailand

Sharon and I were heading for Kaikoura for the weekend, which is a spot on the coast about 2 hours north of Christchurch which is famous in New Zealand and all over the world for being one of the top spots for whale watching.

We hit the road after work and we decided that we better get something to eat before we got too far away from Christchurch. We were aware of the fact that there are not many places to stop and get food on the way to Kaikoura, so we thought we had better grab a bite to eat whilst we were passing through Amberley.

There are not a lot of options of places to eat in Amberley, however, a little Thai place called Karma Cafe (formerly called Thai 71) caught our eye, so we stopped to check it out.

The interior had a nice atmosphere and really neat lantern style lampshades.

We were hungry and came to a decision about what we were going to order quickly, which does not happen often! We ordered Chicken Phad Tai (an old favourite at most Thai places), a Satay Tofu dish and some Jasmine tea.

Yummy Satay Tofu - this was excellent!

Sharon has her eye on the Chicken Phad Thai

The food arrived quickly and we got started on the satay tofu first, which turned out to be extremely good. I have had better Chicken Phad Thai at other Thai places, however this was still very tasty.

The servings where huge and we couldn't finish it so we got it bagged up to go....which reminds me...I still have that in my fridge...yum, I know what I am having for dinner tonight!

Jasmine tea in a neat little tea pot.

check out the cool lanterns as well.

Sharon gets to know one of the locals...

Another pin in the Map!

0 comments Posted by B on Saturday, April 05, 2008

Side Mission: Continental Cheesecake!

This is a Side Mission. It is not part of the Operation Dumpling mission becuase it does not really relate to a particular country, however, you might still find this interesting or entertaining.

It once might have been said that if you are lazy and you want a home made cheesecake, then you are out of luck. Well, not anymore!

I was down at my local supermarket and happened across this:

Yes thats right. Cheesecake in a box 'some assembly required, batteries not included'.

Its a 3 step plan. It takes 10 minutes to make the base and add the filling and then needs to set in the fridge for 1 hour. Easy.

The instructions on the back are simple enough.

Yes, yes,... I know that I can buy cheesecake in a box from the frozen food section that has already been assembled, but where is the fun in that? Besides, its harder to pretend that you baked one of those yourself, becuase they all look like they were laid by a mechanical cheesecake chicken.

So I decided that I would give it a go and see if it really was easy to make and to see how it compared to the store bought varieties.

Step 1: Add some butter to the biscuit base mix.

Sharon hassled me for melting the butter in the microwave...but hey, this is speed baking! its all about cutting corners.

mixing the base was easy - just add butter and stir!

The back of the box suggested adding baking paper to the tin to avoid the base sticking and to make it easier to transfer the cheesecake out once it is set.

I couldn't figure out a good way to do this so I just stuffed it in there. I think that there is probably a better way of doing this, however, my method created a really nice rustic "Jamie Oliver might have made this" look to my finished product, which I thought looked awesome. So yay for me.

the base is ready to go!

Step 2: Add some milk to the filling mix and beat for 2 minutes. Easy!

The filling is ready to go!

Step 3: Pour the filling into the base and then refrigerate for 1 hour so that it sets.

So in the fridge it goes!

Step 4: They never tell you about this step on the back of the box...the clean up!

I hardly made any mess anyway, but none the less the dishwasher is tasked with doing all the hard work and I am off to go relax while I wait for my cheesecake to set! Awesome. I love technology.

my friend, the dishwasher

1 hour later....and its ready! yum! out the tin it comes and it looks great - lets eat!

Note the rustic 'Jamie Oliver might have made this' look to my cheesecake.

It was accidental, but I like the way that it looks!

The results?

As they say, the proof is in the pudding, or the eating of that pudding as it may be.

I thought that it tasted good, but the flavour was a little bit bland. However, considering it came out a box and only took 10 minutes to prepare I am fairly impressed.

It is comparable to the pre-assembled store bought cheesecakes, but missing that jelly like flavouring they often have on top. This did have more of a 'I've just been made' freshness to it, which you don't get from the store bought cheesecakes.

If I had taken notice of the suggestion on the back of the box, I could have lived on the edge a little and added some blueberries to the filling, and this would have no doubt added a little something to the end result. I will have to try that next time.

I will have try baking a cheesecake from scratch and see how that compares, so watch this space!

0 comments Posted by B on Thursday, April 03, 2008

Cuckoo for Cookai Japanese Restaurant

Yesterday evening Brence and I were out having a drink after work in SOL Square at the wonderfully kitsch Fish and Chip Shop, a personal fave hangout - we like to sit in the smokers room even though we don't smoke because we like to lounge on their awesome modular wrap-around 70s couch. But I digress...

After leaving the Fish and Chip Shop we decided to go on an Operation Dumpling mission and check out a new Japanese place that's opened up near my flat (are there any cool bars or restaurants in Christchurch that are NOT near my flat? I think not!).

Cookai Japanese restaurant used to be on Manchester Street but neither of us had been there, then recently it relocated around the corner to a new little development on Cashel Street (just east of Manchester). We had walked past the new place before and it looked very inviting, and the menu posted in the window also sounded good, so last night we decided to give it a try.

Exterior of Cookai - it looks really inviting from the street

Bear in mind this was an ordinary Monday night, and when we pitched up the place was so busy we were lucky to get a table (as we hadn't booked). We took this as a good sign. The interior of the restaurant is really lovely - as much as I love places like the China Kitchen and Little Saigon, I have to say that Cookai really has them beat in terms of decor. It's not fancy, not overdone or trying to be too posh, but it's really nicely decorated with Japanese screens, a kimono on display in the main walkway, nice simple yet attractive wooden tables and chairs - even the chopsticks were simple but nice proper wooden ones, not the cheap disposable 'pull them apart before you start' variety.

Once inside there is a long corridor with the restaurant dining areas split into two rooms at either end, which we presume is to keep the feeling 'cosy'. Lots of wood and decorative elements like the kimono on the wall and Japanese ceramics and bottles in the cubby holes.

Sharon waiting for yummy food to arrive!

The menu was extensive and quite varied. I confess I really am not very well versed in Japanese cuisine, despite my love of eating it, and often have no clue what to order. Cookai's menu was very user-friendly with explanatory bits and helpful pictures, and the items were grouped in a way that let you figure out what was an entree, what was a main, what came with rice and what didn't, etc.

It was hard to choose what to order as everything sounded good, but we ended up with this:

Beef Tataki - essentially raw beef that has been slightly seared on the outside and thinly sliced, with soy and sesame dipping sauce.

Eggplant Special - deep fried eggplant with black miso paste

Miso Soup - because Sharon is a miso-addict

Crispy Tempura Chicken with Lemon Soy Sauce - because it sounded so nice!

Service was polite and helpful, and also pretty fast. The raw beef turned after only a short wait - and boy did it look goooooood! The slices of raw beef were beautifully arranged on a nice ceramic plate with attractive condiments and garnishes - sesame seed, spring onion and fresh grated ginger on the beef with finely grated carrot and fried onion with seaweed on the side.

Cookai Japanese Restaurant's Beef Tataki

Dig in!

The beef was delicious... if you can handle rare or even just medium-rare steak I recommend you give this dish a whirl - it doesn't really taste of "ew, raw meat!", but rather "Yum! Beefy goodness!"

The next things to arrive were the Tempura Chicken and the miso soup. The miso was nice, although lacking in any floaty tofu bits. Aren't there normally floaty tofu bits? This one just had a couple of bits of seaweed, but for a dollar thirty it tasted fine and I wasn't complaining.

The Tempura Chicken was awesome. Like KFC but better in every way. So, actually, I guess it wasn't really like KFC at all. The chicken was incredibly tender and juicy, the coating was yummy and not greasy, and the sauce... oh the sauce. It tasted like soy sauce infused with lemon oil, and it was awesome. I MAY have licked the sauce bowl after we were done.

The Tempura Chicken looked so good that I'd shoveled half of it onto my plate before Brence could take a picture!

Much yummy food!

Last to arrive was the Eggplant Special, which provided the evening's entertainment. First of all, let me again note that the presentation was beautiful, with the eggplant decorated by cool little shavings of things arranged nicely on top and on the plate. Not sure what any of it was, although the red shavings we think are possibly chili pepper skin shavings? They had a chili/cayenne pepper sort of flavour.

Deep fried eggplant covered with black Miso paste and garnished with, errrr, stuff.

So then we tried to eat it. Bear in mind all we had was chopsticks, and on the plate was an entire half-eggplant. There were cuts in the flesh of the eggplant but they didn't go all the way through so the 'meat' was pretty strongly stuck to the skin.

Okay! Time to eat some eggplant...

Um, how exactly are you supposed to do this?

I would love to see the 'proper' way to have eaten this dish. We ended up doing a tag-team effort where one person would pin the eggplant in place with his chopsticks while the other person attracked it savagely, trying to scratch and drag bits of it off with their chopsticks. It was ridiculous and we were laughing so much it was hard to eat. But we (mostly) managed, and, in keeping with everything else at Cookai, it was really tasty.

All up the bill came to 30 bucks. We hadn't had a massive volume of food but we thought 15 dollars each for what we ordered was pretty good value. And seeing as Cookai Japanese Restaurant is only a 10 minute walk from my flat, it's now on my list of Favourite Christchurch Restaurants.

Mission additional: One of the sections in Cookai's menu was titled "Fear Factor" and contained a list of "traditional Japanese dishes that non-Japanese people usually find too scary to order". Sounds like an Operation Dumpling mission to us! We plan to get some friends together and return to Cookai for an official Operation Dumpling Fear Factor Mission. There will be photos, there will be YouTube videos, there will be fried octopus tentacles. Stay tuned!

0 comments Posted by Sharon on Tuesday, April 01, 2008