Vanessa Pike-Russell

One of the hidden gems of the Illawarra and Berkeley (near Wollongong) is the Nan Tien Temple's Tea House. The temple is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere and the architecture is very similar to Imperial palaces found in China. The tea house itself has stunning architectural features such as arches, wooden timber, antique details and makes you feel as if you have stepped off the plane in China.

Whilst they don't advertise it as Yum Cha, Wikipedia gives the following definition of Yum Cha:

"a dining experience which involves drinking Chinese tea and eating dim sum dishes... Dim sum is a varied range of small dishes (a concept similar to tapas) eaten for breakfast, brunch or afternoon tea, as part of the yum cha dining experience. Dishes are usually steamed or fried and may be savoury or sweet. They include steamed buns such as char siu baau, assorted dumplings, siu mai, and rice noodle rolls, which contain a range of ingredients, including beef, chicken, pork, prawns and vegetarian options. Typical desserts include egg tarts, sai mai lo (tapioca pudding) and mango pudding. Many dim sum restaurants also offer plates of steamed green vegetables, roasted meats, congee porridge, and soups. Dim sum can be cooked by steaming and frying, among other methods. The dim sum are usually small and normally served as three or four pieces in one dish. It is customary to order family style, sharing dishes among all members of the dining party. Because of the small portions people can try a wide variety of food."

Sample menu from the Dew Drop Inn website includes Yum Cha type dishes as well as Noodle dishes

[ Yum Cha ]

  • Spring Rolls Rice noodle, vegetarian mince and shredded or $2.00 each vegetables wrapped in rice paper, and deep fried.
  • Curry Puffs Curried Vegetables wrapped in puff pastry and deep fried.
  • Combination Platter 2 Spring Rolls and 2 Curry Puffs
  • Jade Dumplings
  • Steamed Dumplings
  • Bok choy and vegetarian mince encased in Gow Gee pastry, served with soy sauce.
  • Fried Wonton Vegetable and vegetarian seafood wrapped in wonton pastry and deep fried, served with sweet chilli.
  • Veg. Nuggets (per plate) Bite-size pieces of crumbed soya bean.
  • Veg. Drumsticks Strips of bean curd rolled into a drumstick, crumbed and deep fried

Also recommend their Laksa which is a HUGE serving and well worth the cost.

[ Noodle Soup or Dry Noodle ]

  • Hot Pot Stewed ramen noodle / vermicelli with veg. ball, tofu & vegetables in soup, served in an iron pot
  • Tom Yam Pot Stewed ramen noodle / vermicelli with veg. ball, tofu & vegetables in Tom Yam soup, served in an iron pot 
  • Curry Laksa Potato, carrot, bean sprout, cabbage, broccoli, snow peas and tofu cooked in curry and coconut cream with noodles.
  • Mushroom and Tofu Noodle Soup
  • Veg. Mince and Ham Noodle Soup
  • Wonton Noodle Soup
  • Fried Wonton Noodle Soup

The Dew Drop Inn only sells vegetarian meals but believe me ,you will not be missing out. The flavours are amazing and the setting is so authentic most people think the photos were taken in China.

Lotus Tea     fragrant lotus bud; looks great and tastes beautiful.
French Rose Tea     a fragrant floral tisane; relax and enjoy the glorious aroma.
Jasmine Tea     hand shaped into tiny pearls which are infused with fragrant jasmine blossoms; subtle and aromatic.
High Mountain Tea     an exquisite oolong from the taiwanese high mountains; reveal a complex and deep aroma with floral overtones.
Amber Tea     oolong leaves with french rose buds; gentle elegant flavour.
Osmanthus Oolong Tea     a chinese classic; green tea leaves with dried golden sweet osmanthus flower; pleasant aroma with a delicate taste.
Japanese Rice Tea     a combination of Japanese green tea and roasted hulled rice kernels; refreshing with a distinctive nutty flavour
Kumquat Tea     fresh kumquat brewed with passion fruit syrup; wonderful taste, soothing and refreshing.
Chai Tea     a well know indian blend; complex, spicy and incredibly tasty; with or without milk.
Black Forest Tea     a heavenly combination of fruit; luxurious flavour.
Lemongrass and Ginger     fresh herbal taste; relieve nausea and soothe headaches and stomach aches.
Organic Chamomile Tea     nourish your spirit and restore your calm.
Lipton Black Tea     with or without milk.

The Dew Drop Inn only sells vegetarian meals but believe me ,you will not be missing out. The flavours are amazing and the setting is so authentic most people think the photos were taken in China.

Dew Drop Inn, Nan Tien Temple

Berkeley Rd, Berkeley NSW 2506, Australia‎
Phone (02) 4272 0600 to make a booking‎

View the Tea House website for the full menu
Dew Drop Inn, Nan Tien Temple
Berkeley Rd, Berkeley NSW 2506, Australia
Phone (02) 4272 0600 to make a booking

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Vanessa Pike-Russell

I was in Wollongong on a Thursday night to see The Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow playing at the Merrigong Theatre in Wollongong. It runs until Sunday and the Line-up includes Miles Jupp (UK), Smart Casual, Celia Pacquola (Spicks & Specks),  Joel Creasey and our MC Jacques Barret. Book your tickets now for the night of your life. Forget Zumba, laughing is the best exercise!

27/05/2010 Melbourne International Comedy Festival Roadshow in Wollongong

We had arrived an hour and half before the show was to start and headed to City Diggers to sit on the balcony and sample some of the nibbles fare I remembered from my last visit. Unfortunately when asked I was told the menu was no longer available and no nibbles to be had. I had fond memories of sitting on the balcony with a bucket of prawns and a glass of wine and watching the view below. Alas, it was not to be.

We were headed down the Crown Street Mall in search of somewhere to have a bite to eat before the show when I heard the strains of a Diesel song and so ducked down an alley to the Hideaway Cafe.

Over the years I have walked past the cafe, always wondering what I would find inside. "Next time", I promised myself, time after time. Tonight was 'the time' and so I dragged my husband towards the pied piper by the name if Ian who was playing an acoustic guitar just inside.

Step inside and this is what you'll find. Ian playing the guitar and singing, calling in the cold and hungry to a lovely little oasis in the middle of the Wollongong Mall

Food Review: The Hideaway Cafe, Wollongong

Since there was now fourty-five minutes until the show started I quickly settled on Chicken Gnocchi with Pesto Sauce ($11) which arrived about twenty minutes later.

The serving size was huge and I was glad I had help to get through it. As it was there were a few pieces I just couldn't fit in so offered a taste to nearby patrons who chatted with me about this quaint little cafe with so much charm.

Then it was off to the Melbourne International Comedy Roadshow, playing at the IPAC theatre
in Burelli St, only a short stroll away.

The Hideaway Cafe
8/81 Church St
(next to Rivers in the Crown St Mall)

Wollongong NSW 2500 - (02) 4229 6186
Open Mon-Wed 9am-4:30pm; Thu-Sat 9am-10:30pm Tweet This
Vanessa Pike-Russell
I saw a link on Northern Illawarra about the first days of SBS and a video showing people celebrating the multicultural nature of Australia. It makes me smile to see such community and sharing of cultures and coming together to celebrate living in such a lovely place that we are fortunate to call home.

l love that I come from a big family that has a rich multicultural basis. It widened my perspective, especially with regard to food and helped me to explore and become adventurous and try new things. My friends in primary school and high school came from all over the world and it was like they brought part of the world to my doorstep. I learned smatterings of Greek and Italian, later Cantonese and Tagalog (Phillipines. ) I was invited into their homes and experienced cuisines and cultural events that helped to shape who I am today. This was in the days before food shows like Italian Safari and Global Village. Before Masterchef and Jamie Oliver. I still feel blessed to be made welcome and included and tutored in world cuisine.

Attending the birthday parties of my friends and family was always an eye-opener. Tables lined with foods, most of which I had never seen or tried before. Delicioius Greek moussaka, lamb cooked on a spit,  souvlaki and variations of baklava which is still a firm favourite today; a neighbour's birthday including home-made foods including Turkish pide (like pizza but folded in to make a () shape, felafel (made from chick peas) and meze (like an antipasto platter with dips, cheese, bread and accompaniments.

I am so fortunate to have been exposed to such a wide range of cuisines and watch people like my cousin's Grandmother, Mrs. Dressino who cooked everything with love, straight from the heart.

Then there was my Chinese Uncle who worked for a local restaurant and would cook traditional Chinese food with a flip of his wok and the flames rising beneath it. All the strange tastes and smells, ingredients that we have now become at home with but back then were new and exotic. I remember watching him cook Char Sui pork and prawn crackers thought it was magical. A tiny little disk became a huge plate-sized cracker. It was like watching a magician at work. Everything tasted so delicious, with flavours of star anise, hoi sin, dark soy and fish sauce before they became popular in mainstream grocery stores.

I remember trips up to Sydney where my aunt Jeanette would cook Polish food such as stuffed cabbage rolls, sauerkraut, stuffed capsicums and goulash for her husband and family. The smells of pickled cabbage and the taste of polish ogorki cucumbers and paprika still trigger fond memories today. I could go on and on.
I love the multicultural nature of the Illawarra and hope to continue my journey and share some of the time-honoured recipes before they are lost to our generation. If you have some recipes and photos that you would like to share please email me at

As Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said,  

"the discovery of a new dish does more for the
happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.

I just found out today that Mrs Dressino passed away recently and more than ever I want to dedicate my love of food to the special people that coloured my life with food, fun and laughter. You will be missed, Luigia. Memories of spending time with you will be forever close to my heart.

Please join me at Tutti in Piazza and celebrate Italia day in Wollongong Mall June 5th, 2010.
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Collection: Illawarra Food photos
taken by Vanessa Pike-Russell

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Since this blog is done on a voluntary basis I am hoping to fundraise so that I can continue to cover events in the Illawarra and share them here. Some of the events include costs of $100 or above and whilst I would love to attend I just haven't had the money to pay for them.

So, I thought I would see if there was anyone out there who also loves Illawarra Food and wants to spread the word that there is PLENTY to love about the Illawarra and its food. I have used Redbubble, an Australian company, to create some stickers, t-shirts and kids clothing with just under 20% commission to go towards future events and paying for a domain name and hosting. In the text I have added links to Facebook, Flickr, Twitter and Blogspot. Please help spread the word and buy a sticker for $2.53 or a t-shirt from $29.99.

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Lunch time special at Samuel's Restaurant - enjoy your main meal and a glass of wine for only $25!!!

Also available is the Sunday Roast special - every Sunday evening you can enjoy a 2 course roast for only $25! Bring the whole family. 

382 Lawrence Hargrave Drive, Thirroul
(02) 4268 2244
Restaurants, Cafes
Modern Australian
Tue-Fri, noon-2.30pm, 6pm-late, Sat-Sun 9am-2.30pm, 6pm-late
Photo: Marco Del Grande of SMH

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Vanessa Pike-Russell
Portugal - the home of Henry the Navigator, starting point for Christopher 
Columbus. A former great colonial power whose influences remain in Brazil, 
East Timor & Angola. Home of the sweet tragedy of Fado and the 
longest politival allegiance on our planet (with England from 1373). 
The tradition of peasant farming and a long coastline has lead to a 
culinary culture rich with seafood, meats and direct flavours. 
Off the beaten track .. . the food is as relaxed as the
Why not have a sample at 
Fireworks June Big Night Out?

Friday June 4
Saturday June 5

Bookings essential on 4268 1139 
Goat’s cheese, walnut & honey triangles
Calamari w/ tomato, lemon & rice filling
Salt cod in potato jacket
Chorizo, fava bean and coriander salad

Spinach migas w/ stewed onion & sweet pepper paste
Caldeirado de Peixe (Fisherman’s stew)
Roast chicken breast w/ Caldo Verde & black olive paste
Braised kid in red wine w/ white beans & tomato

Torte de figo w/ chocolate sauce
Almond & slow roast quince pudding w/ orange sauce
Port & cinnamon breadcrumb cake w/ lemon sce
Fresh strawberries w/ almond praline

Three courses
(vegetarian $49.00)

Two courses
(vegetarian $39.00)

Bookings essential
Two course minimum

Fireworks Cafe

  • 40 Moore St
    Austinmer 2515 NSW
  • Phone: (02) 4268 1139
  • Chef: Russell Scott 

  •  Photo: Edwina Pickles of SMH
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Vanessa Pike-Russell
Events at Slow Food Shoalhaven

> April - A Visit to Glyn Newydd Olive Grove, Megalong Valley
Sunday 11th April and Monday 12th April. Program includes a guided walk through the olive grove learning about different varieties, maintenance, harvesting and organic accreditation process. Slow lunch on the verandah with the BEST VIEWS of Megalong Valley.
RSVP by 8 April to
> May - Nose to Tail Dinner at Centennial Vineyards Restaurant
Saturday 22nd May at 7:00 pm. Organised by Slow Food Southern Highlands and hosted by Centennial Vineyards Restaurant, Bowral. Join us for a fabulous celebration of the glory or the beast! Limited seats. Bookings to (02) 4861 8701.
>May - Berry Cooking Schools at Broughton Mill Farm
Monday 24th May. Asian Cooking with a Modern Influence with David Campbell of the Hungry Duck Restaurant, Berry.
Weekend 15th & 16th May. Workshop - How to build a wood fired oven. Hands on instructions and concludes with a Pizza Party on the Sunday afternoon. Click on the image to download more details and a booking form.

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Filed under: Local Food Heroes and Slow Food

Razor Back Olive Grove at Wollongong Friday Produce Market

In April 2007 I visited the Friday Produce Markets in the Crown Street Mall, Wollongong  and talked to Aydin and Danny Fahri from Razor Back Olive Grove about their delicious stuffed olives, marinated feta, haloumi, pesto and other gourmet delights. During the conversation I learned about the cheese-making classes that they run on a Sunday. It starts at 9am in Razorback (near Picton) with the process of cheese making.

Morning tea is all home made  with sweet and savoury Turkish delights provided in the morning including locally made cheese, olives and home-made Turkish-style village bread. Beverages include coffee and chai from Byron Bay. For groups of 10 and over they do the cooking on a Wood-fire oven.

Everyone who participates on the day will take their cheeses home including Haloumi and Ricotta.

If you can't make it to the cheese making course be sure to grab some of their products in take-away tubs in four sizes:

250g $6
500g $10
750g $13
850g $15

Only 45 minutes from Wollongong. Join the slow food movement and purchase your olive oil, olives, haloumi and ricotta direct from the source.

Friday: Friday Produce Market
Sundays: Cheese Making Course $90 per person

Razor Back Olive Grove at Wollongong Friday Produce Market
Aydin and Danny Fahri
5 Toby Close, Razorback
m: 042 5281613
p:  024 6366927

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I LOVE seafood. When I was two my father owned an oyster lease up near Tin Can Bay in Queensland. My family operated a seafood business selling fish, prawns, crabs and oysters to people staying in the caravan parks and accommodation in Rainbow Beach and Noosa. My Dad is an expert at shucking oysters, peeling prawns and filleting fish. Both my Mum and Dad make wonderful sauces to go with seafood (recipes to come) but I doubt they can beat this Asian style seafood sauce similar to the one I encountered in a small restaurant in Hobart, Tasmania.

I stumbled upon it on and it took my interest straight away. The fresh flavours of lime, chilli and cilantro mixed with garlic and fish sauce work really well together and a very different accompaniment to seafood than the Australian standard of Tartare sauce or cocktail sauce. Give it a try and use some of the leftovers (if there are any) as a dipping sauce.

The Sauce That Can Go With Any Seafood
as seen on I Just Love My Apron,
found on Foodbuzz

Recipe and photo by I Just Love My Apron

Seafood Sauce-Asian Style
Yield: about 1/2 cup

3 tablespoons fish sauce
4 tablespoons sugar
3 limes, juice
4 big garlic cloves
1-1 1/2 tablespoons chopped ginger
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
4 Thai Chilies (aka Bird's eye Chili)--Please adjust it to your preference

  • Add garlic, chili, ginger, and cilantro into a food processor. Pulse about 5 times until it's coarsely chopped.
  • Add sugar, pulse 5 times until all mixed together
  • Add fish sauce and lime juice, pulse 3 times. Sugar should be dissolved into the mixture.
  • Taste to correction and adjust it to your preference.
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Yesterday I travelled to the Headlands Hotel in Austinmere. It was the last day of a five day adventure with my step-son Guy and his Italian Girlfriend, Stella. They arrived on Friday, joined in with the Ride Around The Lake fundraiser on Saturday, travelled to Windang on Sunday, fishing on the MV Sigma in Kiama on Monday, Tuesday at the Five Island Brewery and finally on Wednesday were preparing for their long flight to Italy via Tai Pei. 

Guy and Stella have been making their way around Australia following the fruit trail, picking fruits and vegetables and saving up for their trip overseas to visit Stella's family in Umbria, Italy. Since it was our last day together and they were on their way to Sydney International Airport, I suggested we have lunch at the Headlands Hotel in Austinmer. The views from this spot are unparalleled in my opinion and the food was amazing.

[ View towards Sydney from the outdoor tables]

 [ Stella enjoying the sunshine and the amazing view ]

I love seafood so the Seafood Platter for One was quickly settled upon at $35. All eyes were on the platter when it was brought out and I only had the chance to take two photos before it was devoured. The chef had cooked the octopus with a Greek-style marinade of olive oil, lemon, garlic and herbs. The garlic prawns and perfectly cooked scallops were nestled on a large piece of barramundi which was grilled and just melted in the mouth. As the food started to disappear there was a puddle of garlic aoili that everyone was dipping their chips and fish into. The prawns were fresh and full of flavour, a lovely combination of hot and cold seafood which tasted even better with the sea views.

[ Seafood Platter for One ($35) ]

Other meals purchased from the specials board was the Flathead Fillets ($18) and Crumbed Snapper ($18) which were very tasty but no match for the grilled barramundi which was sweet and succulent.  I almost purchased the panko prawns (prawns in a breadcrumb crust) but was very happy with the seafood platter that everyone sampled and found to be delicious.
[ Crumbed Snapper $18 ]


[ Battered Flathead fillets $18 ] 

I only wish we had purchased the Seafood Platter for two as it looked amazing when leaving the kitchen. Definitely worth trying on a return visit.

[ Specials board at Headlands Hotel ]

[ Booth style dining with a view ]

I talked with some couples who had stopped at the iconic country hotel built in 1926 on the edge of a bluff in Austinmere. Everyone said how much they enjoyed the charm of the hotel had and that the views were just spectacular. The Headland Hotel was featured in the 2005/2006 Television series headLand. Only an hour South of Sydney and well worth the visit. 
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