Tag Archives: Fish

Indonesia: Adventure Tour of the Komodo Islands

18 Aug

James really wanted to see the Komodo dragons while we were in Indonesia. There are heaps of tour companies offering multi-day trips but we ended up going with FloresXP because they seemed like a decent compromise between the overcrowded budget tours and the $10,000 luxury tours. The owner Max was great to communicate with, the website was easy to navigate, group sizes were small (ours was 6 people), and the reviews were great.

The sleeping quarters were pretty basic. This photo was taken before they put sheets on the mattresses, but you get the idea – we were all sleeping in the same room together.
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And the combined shower/toilet room was a little offputting. Think of those teeny tiny powder rooms with a toilet. You had to manually flush the toilet by pouring water in (there was a tub of water with a scoop floating inside), and the toilet paper was disposed of in a bin. There was a handheld shower at the opposite end and when you wanted hot water you had to let the captain know so he could run the generator. The toilet was so close to the shower I was worried it would splash all over but the water pressure was so low that it wasn’t a problem if you were careful.

I’m not going to lie – I was bloody worried. This is not the Diary of a Deprived Housewife. But wow, was it worth it! The trip was packed with trekking and snorkeling, and the physical exertion and crazy natural beauty made for a memorable four days.

Day 1

We were picked up from our hotel and taken to the boat. The crew introduced themselves, explained the itinerary and boat rules, then we headed to Rinca Island to check out the Komodo dragons.

A pod of dolphins escorted us part of the way. Awesome.

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photo from Justin

We went to the park office to pay the fees allowing us to trek and snorkel the national park that day. This was easily the most unpleasant part of the trip (yes, I’m including using the marine toilet).

The fees are ridiculously high but hey, whatever, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, they need the money and rich foreigners can afford it. But it was insult to injury that if you didn’t have exact change the staff (the fat old guys in the office – not the young guides working outside) would keep the extra for themselves – they called it a “tip”. Ugh. I think it’s just one of those things that’s really annoying but you have to learn to let it go because ultimately it’s a few dollars and just what happens to tourists. =/

The Komodo dragons mainly lazed around the office so you didn’t need to walk far to see them.

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photo from Justin

We also did a light hike (maybe 45 minutes?) around part of the island where they showed us some dragon nests. It was soo hot – no wonder the Komodo dragons just lie around all day.
IMG_20160521_125506We had lunch and did some snorkeling afterwards to search for manta rays but no dice. =(

We couldn’t linger too long because we had to go to Padar Island for a hike to see the sun set. Here we are at the top:

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photo from Ciara

Our group was James, me, Ben, Ciara and Justin. We are missing one member because even though he was a strong hiker he didn’t like the height and the tiny ridges we had to walk to get up there. He missed this gorgeous view.

Padar Sunset II

photo from Ben

It was actually a pretty short hike distance-wise but it was very uphill – remember we started at sea level! Going up was fine – just a matter of cardio and leg strength – but going down steep hills in the dark was pretty dicey and I kept skidding on the dirt/gravel and making our poor guide very nervous. But I made it back to the boat in one piece and we had dinner before showering and going to bed.

Day 2

I didn’t realise this at the time, but we had signed up for the 4 hour adventure trek on Komodo Island (in hindsight it’s obvious – it’s the name of the tour!). There were no bullshit “tips” to the office staff this time but the fees were doubled because it was a Sunday so we were all a bit unthrilled with that. =/

Like with Rinca Island we saw a lot of Komodo dragons at the start, but we were also fortunate enough to see some more about 30 minutes into our hike. We asked the guide how he could tell the males and females apart and he said that the females were smaller and had “a more beautiful shaped head”. So I think this one was female?

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photo from Justin

I checked the weather and it was 33C but apparently because of the humidity it “felt like” 45C which sounds about right. It was one of the most challenging hikes I’ve ever done. We didn’t have enough water – maybe 1 litre each – and had all pretty much run out before the halfway mark. I actually left my second water bottle on the boat because like I said earlier, I hadn’t realised we were going out for 4 hours!

I think the head guide told us that the distance was 10km and we went up about 200 meters (it’s been awhile so I might have that elevation wrong). We were all in reasonable shape but humidity makes weaklings of us all.

Check out James’ intense torso sweat:IMG_20160522_110754(I was no better. I looked like I’d been swimming in a pool.)

This next photo was about the halfway point – lots of downhill to go. The sweat has reached the crotch but James still has some pep left in him:
IMG_20160522_110345Our two guides were machines – they barely broke a sweat, shared their water with us, plus after we reached the boat pickup point they had to turn around and do the hike again in reverse. We all did the super American thing and tipped them heavily because they deserved it way more than those desk guys did.

It sounds weird, but the experience of pushing through the dehydration, tiredness and humidity was one of my favourite parts of the trip. Or maybe my favourite part was getting back to the boat and drinking my bodyweight in water.

After lunch we set off to Batu Bolong for some snorkeling. James and I were still exhausted from the hike and almost decided to just stay on the boat, but the crew told us we’d be missing out if we didn’t.
underwaterWhoa.

From the surface it looked like nothing special – just a giant rock in the middle of the ocean – but underneath it was a watery paradise! There were so many species of fish and all this gorgeous colourful coral. I also saw some eels and a turtle.

I think it was one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen. Every direction we turned it was unbelievably gorgeous; we were giddy swimming around just staring at everything.
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This black brainy thing in the bottom right was one of my favourite things. I don’t know what it was (I found it in the marine life guide afterwards but it’s slipping my mind now). You can’t really tell from the picture but in real life it was glowing like crazy and just so, so pretty.
prettyseaurchin2So yeah, that was pretty amazing! I can’t remember what we did afterwards – I think we might have gone somewhere else to snorkel and then we docked at Gili Lawa for some swimming while the crew prepared dinner.

Day 3

We woke up early in the morning for a hike on Gili Lawa to see the sunrise. It was nonstop steep uphill, but because the sun hadn’t risen it was a cakewalk compared to the day before.
IMG_20160523_060115Steep gravelly path – my downhill nemesis!

Again we were treated to gorgeous views where you felt like you were on top of the world. IMG_20160523_061242In the photo below you can see the sun rising on the left at the same time as the moon setting on the right. I think it’s kind of cool that James is lit from the sun and I’m still kind of in shadow.
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I felt simultaneously wholesome for hiking before breakfast but kind of gross from the dirt and sweat.

After breakfast we went on another search for manta rays. The captain went looking for one of their feeding channels so we could see a lot of mantas without expending too much effort. And this time we hit jackpot!

You might remember we saw some manta rays in Hawaii and I fucked up with the GoPro and didn’t have the camera running. This time I wasn’t taking any chances and gave the GoPro to James. Afterwards he was super excited and was like “I got some awesome footage!”

I couldn’t believe how close they got to us – pretty much within touching distance.

Here is a manta ray, a whole bunch of fish, and even a jellyfish. We got stung a couple of times by jellyfish in the water but it wasn’t too bad. Totally worth it to see the mantas!
mantafishandjellyAfterwards it was time for lunch and then snorkeling at Sebayur Island. It was this protected little area with really calm water.

There was a lot of cool stuff to see – lots of fish (including a barramundi!), sea cucumbers, coral, a couple of eels, an octopus, and a cool blue starfish.
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I got separated from James and started following a trigger fish around. I must have gotten too close to its … I want to say … nest? – do fish have nests? Anyway, I got too close to where it didn’t want me, so it full on attacked. (FYI: mute the video if you don’t want to hear a LOT of shrieking)


What a mean fish.

(Also I showed this video to James and he laughed and laughed. James, you are no better than that dickhead fish.)

No wait, he’s OK. Here he is getting revenge for me. It’s probably not the same one, but it’ll pass on the message.

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After all the excitement at Sebayur it was time to head to a pirate island to spend the night on land. On the way we saw more manta rays and some flying fish.

The island had a separate shower and toilet – luxury. And a hammock!
IMG_20160523_173054These were the sleeping cabins which all had ocean views. The building on the right was the kitchen and communal eating area.IMG_20160523_173511The hills behind the camp had goats. Goats! (I don’t know why that excited me so much since we’d probably seen hundreds of mantas that day)

We were climbing before dinner and heard some bleating which we all thought was one of the other group members. So we kept bleating at each other until we figured out we were actually having a conversation with the hill goats.

And this is where we watched the sun set.
IMG_20160523_173534James getting some meditation in before dinner (also you can see our boat in the background!)
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Surprisingly, sleeping in the cabin was less comfortable than sleeping on the boat – it was much hotter (it took me forever to get to sleep) and I missed the ocean breeze. But still, it was still a fun experience and a nice way to end the day.

Day 4

The next morning we did some more snorkeling and saw some more manta rays. They are so chill and graceful in the water – I could spend all day watching them! In the video below there was just one manta to begin with but he lead us to a big group.

Then it was time for lunch and off to Mawan Island for some free time. Look how gorgeous and secluded it was! We were the only ones there the whole time.
IMG_20160524_130614Ben was off scuba diving and the others were resting on the boat which was their loss because I saw a freaking shark. It was just a little one, but still really cool.

We spent the next hour or so relaxing and exploring the beach. James is wearing Justin’s spare pair of bathers because he left his on pirate island. =(
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Also at the top of my leg where it meets my bikini you can kind of see my original skin colour to get an idea of how dark I got! The backs of my legs were another few shades darker than the front since that was where the sun hit the most while I was swimming.

It’s a bit hard to tell from the photo but the wet sand has a slightly pink hue from the mix of the white and red coral. If you grabbed a handful of it you could see the individual flecks of red that gave it the pinkish tint.

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photo from Nicola

After our beach time we visited Rinca village and did another short (but so hot and so humid) hike to visit a bat cave. Then it was time for our Komodo adventure to come to an end. =( We sat on the roof of the boat in the dark, watching the stars and and flying foxes as we headed back to Labuan Bajo.

So yeah, it was a pretty intense few days. I’m pretty sure we stank at the end of it. I’m definitely not used to the humidity and lack of mod cons, but the FloresXP crew took such wonderful care of us that the boat felt a lot more luxurious than it actually was. I can’t believe how much amazing stuff we got to see in just a few days and what a beautiful world we live in.

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Hiking Around Mount Tamalpais and Lunch at Fish.

28 Apr

Last Sunday we went hiking with Daphne, Chris, Lisa and Cagri. It was a beautiful sunny day – perfect hiking weather, which I’m learning seems to be almost every day here.

The drive up was pretty packed, but I think there were enough different trails that no individual trail was particularly busy. This is us at the start of the hike.

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image from Chris

We intended to do the Rock Creek loop but there were a lot of crossroads and the trail wasn’t well-signed (which was weird because it wasn’t a remote area – at some points we were walking next to cars on the road). I think we managed to stay on the trail for most of it, but we made a wrong turn somewhere in there because we finished much faster than we should have.

Never mind, there were so many hikes in the same area that we just started on another one!

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image from Lisa

We had a peek at the Mountain Theater where they were rehearsing what looked like Peter Pan. The construction was super elaborate and you could see the water from the top seats.
IMG_20150426_110436Then we kept randomly walking. It was a pretty easy hike through meadows and then forest. I preferred the forest parts because we weren’t in the sun as much.
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After the hike we drove to Sausalito for lunch at Fish., a super popular cash-only restaurant. We got there around 1:30pm and there was a massive line.
IMG_20150426_132551It took a long time to get to the front, and the line stayed out the patio gate until around 3pm. At least you could buy drinks while you waited, so everyone got beers and I had a nice refreshing water.

James and I ordered fish and chips and some BBQ oysters. At just under $60 for the two of us it was pretty expensive, especially for a cash-only place!

The food was great though, and the portions were generous. I couldn’t finish mine and had to give James one of my fish and a big handful of chips.
IMG_20150426_142314Stuffed, we went home where I napped until it was time for us to go to Eliot and Michelle’s place to watch Game of Thrones and eat brownies.

It was a pretty busy Sunday but it was nice to get out and explore a bit. =)

Omakase at Shiro’s

8 Jan

Shiro’s Sushi Restaurant
2401 2nd Avenue, Seattle

So James turned the big 3-0 this year and to celebrate we went to Shiro’s, which is supposed to have the best sushi in Seattle.

Shiro’s doesn’t take reservations for seating at the counter so we went over at 6pm to try our luck. They were full (there were only 12 or so seats at the counter), but took down our names for 7:30pm and gave us a call when they were ready. We could have gotten a regular table but we really had our hearts set on omakase.

The chef asked us if we had any dietary preferences, which we didn’t, but we told him that we were keen to try geoduck since we’d never had it before. While we waited James ordered some sake. We began with a sashimi platter.

Though in the back corner they had sea urchin! I don’t think I’ve ever had sea urchin before – it was very soft and surprisingly sweet. They had some on the counter, and I got James to take a photo for me.

Funnily enough as soon as he took the photo everyone else at the counter also whipped out their cameras. I guess they were just waiting for someone to make the first move!

The platter was the only thing we shared and the rest were given to us in individual serves. Next up was some Albacore tuna. They are different colours because the one on the right is from the belly and the one on the left is from the tail of the fish.

Then we had some snapper.

Then some salmon prepared two ways. The one on the left was done with some kind of oniony glaze and the one on the right had a squeeze of lemon. James and I both preferred the lemon.

We were really excited at getting to try geoduck because it’s supposed to be a delicacy in Asia. Unfortunately like many weird Asian delicacies it was thoroughly underwhelming. =( It was kind of crunchy in texture and didn’t have any noticeable taste.

The Spanish mackerel was James’ favourite dish of the night. The one on the left was torched with a blow gun and I think the one on the right some sort of citrus glaze.

This next photo is actually from the guy next to us because we’d gotten a bit overexcited and started eating before remembering to take a photo. The guy was from LA and said that when he comes to Seattle he always makes sure he has a meal at Shiro’s. But anyway it’s 3 different kinds of tuna. I remember one of them was a fatty tuna but looking at the picture I can’t remember which one was which. I think they also came from different places – like one of them was from the Pacific Northwest and I think one was from Japan.

We also had some scallops. They were very tender and sweet.

And some crabs from the PNW. These were OK but we both preferred the crabs we had at Luke and Madeline’s. I thought the seaweed overpowered the crabby flavour a bit. One was Dungeness crab and I think the other was king crab.

The sweet shrimp was amazing and succulent.

Next up was herring with some sort of citrusy glaze.

I had to bow out at this point so from here on out James was my proxy eater. I really should have stopped awhile ago but I was curious what else would come out! He was given some sort of deep fried shrimp. I had a nibble but the mouthful I got was pretty much fried shell.

Then James got to try some octopus. We’d actually been staring at a giant tentacle in front of us all night. This:

turned into this:

Much less freaky no?

Incidentally we were charged for 2 octopuses (octopi?) but only had one. I only realised when I was checking the bill just then but it’s hard to know at the time unless you write stuff down at the time – which in hindsight I wish I’d done because it would have made writing this post a lot easier!

Next up was a Shiro’s wrap hand roll with bits of crab inside. It’s a bit of a cheesy thing to have as part of an omakase meal but daaaamn it was tasty. James said that the chef described it as a sushi ice cream cone.

There was also some flounder (I was always quite excited when there was a new fish).

James also got some more geoduck and said it was just as unpleasant as the first batch.

The next dish consisted of two parts of the squid – the left one is from the legs and I can’t remember what the right one was. James preferred the legs; he said they were crunchy.

This was sea eel.

We finished the meal with an egg dessert. It was soft and sweet – almost custardy in taste.

Our chef was on the right and you can see Shiro on the left. You can see James and the guy that let us take a photo of his food next to him.

It was fun getting to taste a bunch of stuff that I hadn’t tried before – even though the geoduck was a crushing disappointment. Our chef was telling us about the provenence of the various fish but I was having a bit of trouble understanding his accent and also I forgot a lot of stuff. I remember a lot of it came from the PNW though! I most likely got some of the fish wrong because I had to piece stuff together from memory and the partially inaccurate receipt.

Shiro’s been our favourite meal in Seattle by far, although at $211.61 before tip it’s definitely a special occasion thing! But Shiro’s makes me excited to go to Vancouver because one of our friends was like “the best sushi in Seattle is like the worst sushi in Vancouver” (I’m assuming he means proper sushi places and not like … Sushi Sushi) and I would definitely be up for that.

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North Melbourne Fish & Chips (Formerly Snapper Heads)

27 Sep

North Melbourne Fish & Chips
38 Haines street, North Melbourne

For a long time I have been searching for a great fish and chip place nearby. Top Catch on Errol street is okay in a pinch, but I’m still on the hunt for something better. James and I tried Bottom of the Harbour on Lygon street, and although the fish and chips were better than Top Catch, it was more expensive, much more of a hassle to get to, and the portions were ridiculously tiny.

The other night it was time for North Melbourne Fish & Chips to step up to the batting plate. All the online reviews I could find were very positive, with several saying that these guys made the best fish and chips in Melbourne, so I was feeling pretty optimistic.

Look at James in the photo above – he is all calm, waiting for our order, but I was outside taking photos and practically vibrating with anticipation.

Also adding to my optimism was the fact that it was pretty busy the whole time we were there. See? A line of impatient locals!

All the signage calls it North Melbourne Fish and Chips but online it seems to be referred to as Snapper Heads Fish and Chips. I’m guessing there was an ownership change or something.

James ordered a flake ($4.70), burger with the lot ($6.50) and minimum chips ($3.30), and I ordered the Lunch Box which had flake, chips, 2 dim sims and 2 potato cakes ($8.50). Chip portions were probably on the smaller side, but not egregiously so like Bottom of the Harbour.

So … the best fish and chips in Melbourne?

Blergh.

Blergh.

Not even close.

The batter on the fish was waaay too thick, the fish was overcooked, and everything collapsed as soon as I bit into it. The chips were overcooked – hard on the outside and soggy on the inside. And stale tasting, even though I’d seen them fry everything up in front of me. Everything was also oddly flavourless – I used up so much salt trying to get it to taste like something other than grease, batter, and crushing disappointment

The dim sims and potato cakes were awful as well, but I don’t really judge fish and chip places on the non-fish non-chip parts.

I don’t know if it was the worst fish and chips ever, but it was definitely the worst I’ve had in recent memory. I think there’s one other place in North Melbourne I haven’t tried, but it’s not a dedicated fish and chips place, more of a general “fried takeout” store. I think if I want excellent fish and chips I’m going to have to expand my radius a little.

Asian Style Barramundi Fillets

5 Feb

I like Asian style fish, but not the bones (and James hates bones – he will complain bitterly about them the whole meal). Also a whole fish is usually too small for my bamboo steamer, so I use fillets instead.

When Cat and I were kids we used to fight over who got to eat the fish eyes. When we went out for banquets with my cousins they would look on, appalled, as we fought over our dubious prize.

James: You guys were stupid. Fish have two eyes!

I can’t remember where I got this recipe from, it’s been so long. Most Chinese fish recipes are pretty similar though.

There are some Chinese foods that are pretty shit (our desserts! Red bean soup, what the fuck) but our fish is dead on.

Ingredients

Soy Mixture

  • 4 TBSP soy sauce
  • 2 TBSP shao xing wine
  • 2 TBSP water
  • 1/4 tsp sesame oil
  • a few dashes of white pepper powder
  • 2 TBSP rock sugar (ground into a powder)

Fish

  • 2 barramundi fillets
  • 2 inches ginger (peeled and cut into thin strips)
  • 1 stalk spring onion (thinly sliced)
  • coriander leaves
  • 2 TBSP peanut oil
  • 1 TBSP shao xing wine

Method

  1. Blend the soy sauce mixture and set aside.
  2. Lay the fish on a plate and drizzle with 1 TBSP shao xing. Top the fish with half of the ginger strips
  3. Steam fish for roughly 8 minutes
  4. When finished, discard the water and ginger. Lay the remaining ginger strips on top of the fish.
  5. Heat a pan over high heat and add 2 TBSP peanut oil and swirl around until hot. Pour over steamed fish.
  6. Place pan back on the stove and add the soy sauce mixture. When the sauce boils, pour it over the fish.
  7. Top the fish with coriander and spring onions

 

Very Rough Nutritional Guide:
1 (200g) fillet: 482 calories, 41% fat, 39% protein, 15% carbs, 5% alcohol

Adventures in Shoreham

5 Dec

James and I went to his parents’ beach house last weekend and dragged Cat and Scott along with us. It had been raining all week so we were a bit worried, but it ended up being perfect beach house weather.

On Saturday morning we went to the Red Hill market, which was incredibly packed. There was a truly impressive array of local produce (none of which I got good photos of, sorry!), and heaps of baked goods. There were so many gorgeous-looking items that I got overwhelmed and ended up buying nothing! Actually that’s not true, I bought some yo-yos and they were awesome. But I wish I had bought more! Scott bought some sticky date puddings and butterscotch sauce, and Cat got some fancy cider. I played at the petting zoo.

Then in the afternoon went to a beach in (I think) Flinders to catch bait for squid fishing. There was a net (with a hole in it) that we basically used to chased fish around. I caught a fish that we named Charlie. We got to talking about how fishermen make their catch look big by holding it way in front of them.

Look at my giant fish!

Err, medium sized fish?

Oh alright, busted.

Duncan said the tide was too low for squid fishing, so we packed it in for that day. For dinner we had turkey, ham, green beans and salad, followed by chocolate cake. The cake tin was slightly smaller than the one I normally use, which resulted in this:

See the tray underneath? That’s cos I knew that would happen. See how I didn’t move the cake to a bigger tin? That’s cos I was hoping that it might not happen.

It worked out okay in the end – I used a bread knife to level it off and we all snacked on discarded cake bits.