Monday, February 13, 2012

Dahon Tea Lounge: Filipino Restaurant in South Melbourne

Upon learning of the new Filipino restaurant in South Melbourne, my girl friends and I happily agreed to have our next meet up at Dahon Gourmet Tea Lounge. Filipino food is still a mysterious cuisine for many I would think as I have a few work colleagues asking me about it.  I have not known of a Filipino restaurant in Geelong or even in Melbourne which can offer both the food and the ambiance.

It was a different feeling placing our order using the Filipino language. Kimi was quite impressed that the lady at the counter could speak Filipino.

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This board is placed near the door. It easily caught my attention because of the very inviting iced teas and the small Philippine flag, which I think is placed incorrectly. The blue part of the flag should be on the left when you're looking at it. Correct me if my memory is wrong.

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I like the colour schemes as it is very pleasing to the eyes. The round lamps added to the cosy feel of the restaurant.
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They also have several mounted photos displayed on one side of the restaurant, which I believe showcases Philippine culture and favourite family photos of the owners. The photo of the San Miguel beer was my favourite.

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I was also impressed with the bottles of vinegar in the condiments section. This is very Filipino indeed!

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Kimi and my friends had the citrus iced tea.  I ordered the berry lychee.  Both were really refreshing. My berry lychee had a real lychee in it which I really loved.  Kimi enjoyed the slice of orange in his tea as well. If there is one thing I need to come back to, this would be the gourmet teas. I want to sample each one of the flavours.

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This is the pork barbecue skewers with java rice and a side of pickled pawpaw (papaya).

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This is the palabok, which is a noodle dish with a shrimp-based sauce.

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They also serve escabeche.

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They offer two variants of lumpia: mini-spring roll with meat inside and the fried vegetable lumpia.

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They also serve halo-halo complete with leche flan and ube (taro) haleya.  This is a very great dessert during hot summer days.

If you want to sample a Filipino dish or you want a quick fix of Filipino food craving, this is a great place to go. Their food suits the Australian palate really well and the service is really good. Plus, make sure to try their gourmet iced teas.

Shop 5, 111 Cecil St.
South Melbourne VIC 3205

Tram tip: Take the tram 112 to St. Kilda at the corner of Spencer St and Collins St. Get off at tram stop 127 at corner York St and Clarendon St. Walk to Cecil St.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Our Cum Quats are flowering!

Some of you may wonder what I am talking about. Cum quat is similar to the Philippines’ calamansi or calamondin. We use it as a dipping sauce with soy sauce, as marinade, our replacement for the citrusy and lemony flavour that Westerners use, or as part of a refreshment. It is also perfect for any noodle (pansit) dish whether fried or with soup.

For the past five years, we have been replacing calamansi with lemon but the taste is still different. And we are still longing for that distinct taste. We are always happy if we see noodles served with cum quat at friend’s and relative’s parties. We have been wanting to have our own supply of cum quat so we purchased a plant in 2008. However, since then, it did not flower much and only a couple became fruits. It is only planted though in a big pot since we are only renting and only watered once a week because of the water restrictions and as advised by one relative.

Early 2011, we were inspired by the flowers of a friend’s newly planted cum quat. We thought that probably our cum quat plant has a problem or maybe it has acquired a disease so we purchased another one. Since mid-2011, Tatay has been looking after it really well. He even tried collecting his and Kimi’s first urine in the morning. I know it sounds gross but apparently it is a good fertiliser for citrus trees. Don’t worry, he dilutes it with water before pouring it to the cum quat.

Cum Quat
our flowering cum quat

Tatay also fed the plant a bit of citrus-appropriate fertilizer. He regularly watered it except when we were away for Christmas holidays. We are all happy and excited whenever we see and smell its sweet-smelling flowers - they actually smell like Jasmine or Sampaguita (the national flower of the Philippines). I am especially ecstatic because I am already looking forward to enjoying my siomai with toyomansi (calamansi  plus soy sauce) or refreshing myself with calamansi juice. Now, I am crossing my fingers for a bountiful cum quat harvest.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Finding Care

One of the big hurdles faced by working parents is to find a suitable care arrangement that would work for their family. This is the same challenge we face. This is extremely difficult for migrants like me who do not have any immediate family nearby and who got used to having live-in nannies when growing up. In case you are not aware, even middle-income families can afford live-in nannies in the Philippines. In Australia, only the filthy rich can afford nannies.

Dress-up Day

There are different forms of care to choose from in Australia: (1) one of the parents, usually the mother, looks after the baby, (2) grandparents and friends, (3) babysitters and nannies, (4) family day care, (5) occasional care and (6) long day childcare centres. The government assists family with the cost of care. There is the childcare benefit, which reduces out of pocket costs depending on the household’s income, and the childcare rebate, which gives back 50% of out-of-pocket costs. I will not detail this information as it is best to get accurate information from the family assistance office website.

The family day care set-up is run and administered by the local council. Your kid will be looked after by a qualified early childhood educator, who at least finished a Certificate degree in Children Services, at his or her own premises together with 3 other non-school aged kids from 6 months to 5 years old. The fee is ranging from $6 to $9 per hour with a usual minimum booking of 6 hours per day. Parents provide the food, an assurance that your kids eat food they love, and everything the kids need personally like diapers, wipes, and nappy bags. But, all other materials related to their activities such as art and craft materials, musical instruments, and toys are all covered by the educator. Because of the smaller group size, the educator is quite flexible to adapt the schedule and routine of your kid at home or depending on the kid’s needs on the day.

Occasional care is a form of care for those who needs care from time to time when you have appointments or just want a day for yourself.

In long day childcare, qualified early childhood educators look after the babies and the kids from as young as 6 weeks old to 5 years old before they start the big school. The baby’s room usually have 6 kids at a time with 2-3 educators looking after them. The toddlers room usually have 15 kids at a time with 4 educators. The 3 and 4 year old room usually have 15 kids at a time with 2-3 educators. Most childcare centres operate from 6:30 am to 6:30 pm, which is suitable for working parents who travel 45 minutes to an hour for work. Most childcare centres provide the food, that are gluten and nut free, nappies, and sunscreen. Most often bringing of food is not allowed to avoid food allergic reaction from occurring. Your kid will be exposed to different variety of cuisines. I am often surprised that Kimi eats and knows food that is not a regular food for traditional Filipino families such as ravioli and gnocchi. Healthy eating habits is also promoted among the kids. This could be a disadvantage, though, if you have a picky eater that would not really eat anything but bread and jam. In terms of schedule, your kid will learn the centre’s routine for grouping activities, playing, eating and resting.

Pretend play: I can build your house!

In our situation and after he was looked after by his grandparents interstate (an emotionally difficult situation that I would not like to happen again), we opted for a mix of family day care, childcare centre and stay at home at different stages to ensure that Kimi gets the right mix of social interaction and the much needed rest if he had a late night of playing with us to compensate for our absence during the day. When Kimi was 19 months, we started him off with 1 day at family day care and 4 days at home per work week. We increased this to 3 days a week in family day care and 2 days at home when he was 22 months. We changed his care to 3 days in family day care and 2 days in childcare when he was 24 months.

Childcare fees were getting expensive so when my request to work from home one Friday at fortnight was approved, we dropped his childcare days to 1 day per week, resulting in only 4 days of care per week when he was 30 months. Che and I took turns looking after Kimi during Fridays while friends assist during unavoidable circumstances. This set-up has substantially helped us financially.

There are pros and cons of putting your kid in childcare or day care. For sure, your kid will pick up the virus of other kids especially during the winter season so you will need to brace yourself for more days of caring for a sick kid - the usual cough and cold. But, the positive side of this is your kid will build the immune system earlier in life than kids who will only be exposed to other kids when they get to school. You will be surprised that your kid will learn words and phrases that you don’t use at home. These, however, are not only the nice but the naughty too words too. They are unavoidable. So, you will have to work harder at emphasising the proper behaviour at home. Your kid will learn to share and negotiate as he will regularly do this with other kids so don’t be surprised that he will start negotiating with you as well. And the most important of all, your kid will develop emotional and social skills without much effort on your part.

If you decide to put your kid in childcare, ask friends and colleagues for recommendations, make a surprise visit so you can see them in action with no preparations, observe the kids if they are content and happy, check the toilets as this is a good indicator of overall cleanliness, look at the play area and see if there are any hazards, review the centre’s philosophy and curriculum, and keep an eye on what the educators are doing and how they respond and treat the kids. Trust your instincts. You will feel it during the first visit if the place is for your child and if it is worth doing a trial session.

Yes, it costs a leg and an arm. But, I will still put my son in childcare even if we can have a live-in nanny similar to what I had growing up in the Philippines or even if I can opt to stay at home full time – not for four days though.

How about you? Will you put your kid in childcare as well after my sharing? Do you have any tips on choosing the right day care?