Peruvian Immersion For A Day @ National Gallery of Australia, Canberra

Date of Visit: March 29 2014

If your much anticipated hiking trip to Peru is cancelled what would you do?  Well, Bestie and I made a road trip to Canberra to gawk at the exotic Inca treasures of the ancient Peruvian civilisation at the National Gallery of Art in Canberra – aptly called ‘Gold and The Incas: Lost World of Peru” (here).

The exhibition is a key component of Canberra’s centenary celebrations in 2013 and also significant in that it marks the 50th anniversary of Australian-Peruvian diplomatic relations, and is organised in co-operation with the Peruvian Ministry of Culture.  As such, the works of art are lent by the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Perú and its fraternal collections, the Fundacion Museo Amano, the Museo Larco and the Museo Oro del Perú – museums that were on our trip’s agenda –  as well as the collection of the National Gallery of Australia.

Would it  surprise you that the Inca Empire lasted only 100 years?  This is a very short time for such a vast and famous enterprise!

In a nutshell:

“The Incas conquered all of Peru and much of Chile, Bolivia, Argentina and Ecuador.  The state governed from the capital city of Cuzco by a system of duties, taxes and rewards.  20,000km of roads enabled efficient and speedy communication.

The Emperor was The Son of The Sun God and the pinnacle of an extremely hierarchical society.  The Inca state region demanded scarifices, human and animal – even textiles were burnt as offerings to the Gods.  Architecture, e.g. the famous World Heritage Site Machu Picchu, was the glory of the Inca culture (and still is!).  Temples, palaces, terraces and fortifications of huge stone blocks were fitted together, mostly without masonry.

Sadly, our knowledge of Inca society is filtered through the world view of Spanish chroniclers. The Inca state of at least 12 million people fell very rapidly, due to superior European military technology, civil war and new diseases, especially smallpox.  Perhaps 90% of the native population, more than 10 million people, was killed or died of disease and famine after the conquest.

Almost every artefact that survives – what we see at the exhibition today – was buried with their owners.  As the cult of the dead infers, both noble and common people were interred in different ways according to tiers of importance – from ruling lords, priests, military leaders and retainers – as exemplified by their respective accoutrements and placements in their graves.

A rather kooky rite is that adorned mummified Inca elites form part of annual postmortem ceremonies where their corpses were paraded around the city of Cuzco.”

20140330-203524.jpg

Poster Child of the Exhibition: Gold Relic of the Sun God

20140417-211609.jpg

Children’s’ Discovery Area where photography is permitted

In summary, this is a well-curated exhibition with over 200 objects showcasing  exemplary artefact from each period of the Peruvian civilisation  from gold regalia, intricate jewellery and striking vessels to elaborate embroidered and woven cloths.  So, don’t miss out!

*****

It is only appropriate to round up our excursion by having a Peruvian themed lunch at the Sculptural Garden Restaurant.

DSC00118

‘Cones’ (Bert Flugelman, 1976/82) in polished stainless steel

Finding it needed a bit of detective work as it is located outside the gallery, tucked away to the side of the garden and in a tent by the Marsh Pond.

20140330-203539.jpg

Sculptural Garden Restaurant

In the Marsh Pond (part of the sculpture garden) is a powerful work by Dadang Christanto, an Indonesian artist based in Darwin.  The pond is filled with bronze heads with extra eeriness supported by the mist-maker.  His works speaks of victims of oppression and social injustice.  If I remember correctly, this piece, “Heads from the north’,  is about the genocide in East Timor.

(PS:  Would I want to hold a reception in the restaurant by a pond filled with heads?  Probably not!😰)

64794738.PzWK8R6E.IMGP9836c

‘Heads from the north’, Dadang Christanto (Photo credit: http://www.pbase.com)

For this special occasion in conjunction with the exhibition, the interior of the restaurant is styled by designer Megan Morton to play up combinations of colour, good times and of course, corn – to accentuate the joy of food and family that the Peruvian culture delights in!

20140330-203629.jpg

Interior of Restaurant

20140330-203642.jpg

Maize ‘Chandelier’

Only Set Lunch is served in the restaurant.

What we got for our 2-course Set Lunch at $35 per person

20140330-203706.jpg

Wholewheat Damper

ENTREE

Presented on a wooden paddle pan as is very fashionable now,  we have Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander.

20140330-203553.jpg

Ceviche of Salmon with Lime, Jumbo White Corn and Coriander (GF)

20140330-203717.jpg

Jumbo White Corn

20140330-203739.jpg

Quinoa: Baked quinoa toped with avocado wasabi cream and a rocket leaf. This is bourgeois peasant food!

MAIN COURSE

Sometimes, it is best not to heed recommendation of a fellow diner who you don’t know…

20140330-203603.jpg

Twice-cooked Beef Short Rib with Chimichurri and Huancaina Potatoes.

This is a plate of disappointment of sorts:  The beef was dry – yet full of fat!  The most obvious explanation is that it is not a good cut of meat which has been pre-(over)cooked and reheated thus rendering it very beef-jerky-like in texture.  The exotic sounding ‘huancaina’ is basically a spicy cream which is otherwise ‘meh’.

Check out my leftover plate of fat!

20140330-203615.jpg

FAT!! Fat-Die-Me! 😱 😱 😱

Not a very satisfying lunch, so a Diet Coke at the Gallery Cafe is in order…

Near Death, 36 Hours in Pavilion Mall KLCC, Malaysia… and An Announcement!

Date: October 24 2013

4 sticks of satay chicken on a bed of tomato fried rice, 1 bread roll, some salad and a slice of orange cake on board MAS from SiBoo to Kuala Lumpur… could this possibly be my last meal? And if it was, at least I have tried the Malay tomato fried rice before I perished! 😉

20131024-144556.jpg

MAS: Inflight Lunch

Perished? Err… excuse me?

Let’s keep this hush-hush between you and I OK? I posted my flight’s near-collision on my FB whereby my friend immediately commented that this piece of info is considered ‘OSA’ in Malaysia and anyone leaking this info will face up to RM1 Million or 1-year mandatory imprisonment or both!

What the heck is OSA? According to Wiki, OSA is short for The Official Secrets Act 1972 (Act 88), a Malaysian statute prohibiting the dissemination of information classified as an official secret. The legislation is based on the Official Secrets Acts of the United Kingdom. Apparently, a blogger has been held under the draconian Official Secret Acts (here) because of his comments on the Sultan of Johor. Well then, since it was announced by the pilot onboard with 100-odd passengers, if the OSA does indeed operates, then we are all going to be arrested!

Back to the near-collision story, our plane was on approach to land in KLIA, when another bigger plane trespassed into our path. We had to make a sudden acceleration to go back up into air, spending a good 10 minutes of circling before we made finally it down to land (all-in-all, the flight to KL took nearly 5 hours, taking into account the hour-long delay in SiBoo). Anyway, I saw a nice seaside resort very similar to the plan of Dubai Palm Jumeirah’s land reclamation – if anyone knows the name of the resort, do enlighten me.

*****

After refreshing and unpacking – and feeling rather knackered, I decided to go for an early dinner @ La Boca which I had been before (here).

In anticipation of my Inca Trail next year, an induction into Peruvian food is a must. First up, the ubiquitous pisco sour. Sweet, tangy, punchy and deceivingly alcoholic, this lemonade made with egg white made me go: “Hit me Baby, one more time!”

20131023-212616.jpg

Pisco Sour

Since there were 3 of us, we ordered Fajitas La Boca to share. It looked exactly like in the menu. There is an option for beef, lamb, chicken or mushrooms (vegetarian). We opted for mushrooms. In hindsight we should have asked for the other meat options because the mushrooms with lots of onions and capsicums were oily and not very filling.

20131026-154948.jpg

Picture menu

20131024-134921.jpg

Fajita (with a side of 4 tortillas wraps, not pictured)

My main was Peruvian Salmon Ceviche. The salmon was not raw as I had expected, it had been lightly seared and mixed with bits of corn kernels, onions, tomatoes, avocado and capsicum. It tasted alright, although I didn’t bother with the accompaniment of the tough cassava chips.

20131023-212816.jpg

Peruvian Salmon Ceviche: Topped with rockets, tough cassava chips drizzled in pesto oil

My dining companion #1 had his usual: Steak, chips and salad, which he finished with a gusto.

20131024-142350.jpg

Steak, chips and salad

My dinner companion #2 had Seafood curry. It was a HUGE with pan-fried salmon attoped with 4 pieces of prawns, 2 huge wedges of pumpkins and rice. The curry was rather Malaysian, although I have no idea what Latino curries tasted like – I will find out in April 2014!

20131024-142406.jpg

Seafood curry

*****

To round off our meal, we headed to Meet Fresh, a Taiwanese franchise renowned for desserts on Level 6.

Dining companion #1, being the healthy one opted for Mung bean, Lotus Seed and Tofu pudding.

20131024-142424.jpg

Mung bean, Lotus Seed and Tofu pudding (RM6.50)

Dining companion #2 had the new Super Mango Shaved Ice which is lots of defrosted mango pieces on top of a bed of shaved iced soaked in mango juice and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

20131024-142628.jpg

Super Mango Shaved Ice (RM9.80)

Me, being me, went for Meet Fresh Special Herb Jelly – because I loved the combination of chewy taro balls, yam balls and melt-in-my mouth herbal jelly. I even requested for a scoop of Taro Ice-cream to send me to sweet-sweet lullaby!

20131024-142635.jpg

Meet Fresh Special Herb Jelly (RM6.90) + Taro Ice-cream (RM2)

*****

Breakfast meeting the next morning @ Pressroom Bistro which is at The Connection, outside the mall.

20131024-142644.jpg

Croissant + Flat White (RM14++)

20131026-154954.jpg

Menu

*****

Lunch @ Ippudo. Surprisingly, the noodles have improved since my last visit here.

20131024-142653.jpg

Shiromaru Motoaji + Onsen Tamago

20131024-142659.jpg

Akamaru Shinaji

Met for Coffee @ Ben’s which I had been to before (here). The Iced Black Coffee was very weak, I prefered Dr. Mahatir’s version (here) with -60C ice-cubes!

20131024-194800.jpg

Weak, weak Iced Black Coffee… yuck, yuck, yuck!

*****

Upon entering the Madam Kwan’s (at the Basement of Pavilion Mall KLCC) for dinner, a quirky lady in a hat came to greet us and directed us to our table. Madam Kwan looked very much the caricature in her menu, a woman in her 70s, she is almost a fixture at her restaurant. Myself and one other decided to order 2 dishes to share.

Can you believe that I have never tried Otak Otak? I saw an episode on Asian Food Channel (AFC), presented in Mandarin by a chap called ‘Ah Sien’, who travels around Malaysia and Singapore in search of the perfect Malaysian street food. In one particular episode he talked about Otak Otak, his description of this street food made it sound impossibly delicious and got me interested. This is a spicy fish paste wrapped in banana leaf. Hmm… as a chili padi enthusiast, I have to say this one is overly spicy for me and thank goodness for the side of cucumber! The Char Kway Teow was pretty ordinary fare.

20131024-194807.jpg

Char Kway Teow $18.90

20131024-194813.jpg

Otak Otak $19.90

There, there, 36-hours stay-over in Pavilion KLCC, carb-ladden by meals with hidden sugars, no wonder I felt very bloated and very yucky… whew, at least my clothes still fits!

As I took my early flight back to the Land of Oz the next morning, I did a bit of contemplation and decided that my current sedentary lifestyle and the choice of food are not doing me any good. I am flabby, sluggish, achy and tired all the time. Even though I take time out to run at least 2-3 times a week, the unbearable heat makes me exhausted even before I start my run. Grr… running is not cutting it, I need to lift weights. So the picture below is my ‘final’ – fingers-crossed –carb-ladden meal before I embark on my 3-month Body transformation on November 1.

20131027-154808.jpg

Inflight Brunch KL-Sydney: Fruit salad, Main (Omelette with chicken sausage, spicy potato wedges, mushrooms, tomato and sweet peas, Orange cake, croissant, muesli bar, snickers bar, tea, red wine, 1 mini magnum).

So here’s THE announcement, in additional to my normal restaurant/food reviews and travels, I shall be blogging about my ‘transformation’ aka how I’m gonna get my groove back every Monday – starting next week! I will be documenting my food journal for the past week and the exercises I’m doing. A bit of a challenge, as you shall soon see as I love food and wine a teeny-weeny bit too much!

I’m excited now, hope you are too! See you around! 😘