29th March 2010

Harem Restaurant

282 Given Terr, Paddington Qld

It may seem odd for a Turkish restaurant to be reviewed on an Orthodox site, but the cuisine has similarities with those of Greece and the ancient Orthodox lands of the Middle East. For starters the Harem offers a platter of dips, comprising baba ghanoush, homous and, the most tasty, vegetable with chillie. These are less moist than they would be in an Arab restaurant, the homous in particular needing a knife to be loaded onto the beautiful thick leavened bread that the Turks serve so lavishly.  For the main course there is an old favourite, imam bayildi, in which the skin of half an aubergine is stuffed with an oily mix of vegetables. This is delicious, and the side servings of grated red cabbage and salad which come with a wedge of lemon are just the thing to offset its oiliness. You can also order borek, in which pastry comes stuffed with spinach and cheese; people have been known to find this dish a wee bit heavy and bland. There is much enjoyment in this cuisine, and endless fascination in placing it within the types of cooking originating in that part of the world.

Harem on Urbanspoon

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21st March 2010

Hao Guang Vegetarian Restaurant

357 Zhong Zheng Rd, Taipei, Taiwan

The highlight at this comparatively up-market self-service place are the savoury parcels of a mixture based on finely chopped mushrooms encased in tofu skin, themselves wrapped in strips of processed seaweed lightly sprinkled with sesame seeds. You can also enjoy wonderfully succulent mushrooms, small pinkish aubergines, okra, peas in their pods, finely shredded green capsicum and slices of slightly sweet tomatoes…the ability of Chinese cuisine to incorporate foodstuffs that cannot be traditional is something I’d like to know more about.

Of course visitors to a country like Taiwan may well decide to aim for more adventurous dining experiences than those offered by self-service establishments, but in an environment where one cannot speak the local language (indeed, you probably won’t be able to tell the name of the restaurant from the sign outside), it is a relief to find places where you know that all the food will be veggie, and the quality of their offerings is an added bonus. This restaurant is out of the city centre, handy to the Shi Lin MRT station.

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14th March 2010

Green Acres Vegetarian

Lane 117, #6, Shida Rd, Da-An district, Taipei, Taiwan

One of the mainstays of Sichuan cuisine is ma po tofu, in which the tofu comes with a topping of meat, and it comes as a surprise to find it listed on the menu of a veggie restaurant. Even more surprising is the form it takes: the tofu comes in a chilli sauce into which has been mixed shredded lettuce and…sultanas! The resulting dish is a study in contrasting colours, textures, tastes (think sweet and sour) and, as it cools, degrees of heat, for it turns out that sultanas are very good at retaining their heat. It is accompanied by a serve of a mixture of different kinds of rice and a small bowl of salty miso soup, which contains a small amount of tofu. An unusual meal, but one that reminds you of the limitless possibilities of Chinese cuisine, and is both satisfying and remarkably cheap. The small restraurant also functions as a health food store, where various Chinese preparations can be obtained.

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13th March 2010

To fast or not to fast – to love or not to love – to forgive or not to forgive – A Lenten Message from Fr Themi

Please find following a message from Fr Themi (Orthodox Mission to Sierra Leone) which discusses fasting in the context of poverty, and gives us all some perspective on our lives.  I found it a very interesting and thought provoking commentary and hope that you find the sharing of it relevant, particularly since we have been discussing fasting at recent meetings.

“We have reached the season of Lent and all over the world Christians have started fasting and observing certain elements of self-denial. I tell that here in Sierra Leone the reality of fasting and self-denial go on quite naturally without even the church insisting on it. It is simply part of the daily reality of life.
 For example, part of the principles of fasting during this period includes the abstinence from meat and dairy products. However here who can afford to eat meat anyway? It is only the rich and the whites who can afford to eat meat on a daily basis. Furthermore fasting requires the abstinence from dairy products (e.g. cheese, yogurt etc.) But who can afford cheese here?
So basically the rules of fasting apply to the vast majority of the population on a daily basis throughout the year as part of the economic reality of third world nations such as Sierra Leone.
Perhaps then the only meaningful fast here would be for an individual to deny himself / herself a food which they can afford and which they like as long as it does not affect their health – given the limited choice of food variety that the poor can choose from.

When fasting we are instructed to deny ourselves certain pleasures in life. Unfortunately pleasures in Freetown are scarce.
We are have just entered our third year and when I think I have seen it all. Here in Freetown we have over 20 large slums, each one worse than the other – with hundreds of thousands of people living without toilets, water, regular food, inadequate shelter, heavily polluted environments, with a plethora of diseases and a very high child mortality rate.

The other day I visited Susan’s Bay; the name sound beautiful but in fact is one of the most horrific slums in Freetown and certainly the worst I have ever seen. It was as if I had fallen into Hades, the lowest pit of misery in terms of human existence. Words cannot describe the misery and human suffering I saw. Suffice it to say that on the day we visited already five children died by midday.  And this is simply a daily reality. No clinic is available to serve these people and the sick die while being carried by hand to the nearest hospital.  So this is certainly life in self denial, and daily fasting.. no wonder God loves the poor.

We have applied to build a clinic to serve them and we have been promised an ambulance from Germany. Praise God!
 While for rich nations fasting and self denial are seen as difficult and for the vast majority of westerners as an unnecessary religious custom (even though it has a very strong spiritual result), it shows us the way to Love our neighbors, forgive our brothers and sisters and thank God that we were born in nations of peace and prosperity where our families can grow and live long healthy lives. But the poor of the world face this practice of denial and face their own mortality as a daily event even when very young. 
Imagine that five children die in one day, because there was no clinic to help them.

I am told by my friend Tony Sklavos of Sydney who recently witnessed a suicide that an inquest is being held; doctors, psychiatrists barristers and police were called to provide information on this sad case of the suicide. Thousands of dollars were spent on the inquiry (and rightly so) newspaper reporters gathered in great numbers to hear the witnesses; because the death of one young person is one too many in any world.
And here scores of children die every day even before they reach the age of five (25% of children here do not reach 5) – no inquests, no barristers, no doctors’ reports, no psychiatrists appear, no reporters print the news and no police will investigate the deaths; just a hand full of NGO’s and Church organizations, undermanned, under staffed and under funded.

This is why the work of the church with the support of organizations like PK4A and Light Of The World here, are so important in Africa.

Our mission is undoubtedly one drop in the ocean in the overall scale of things – but it is a drop that God requires us to produce. I am thanking you all for your help and asking for your help to continue so our mission here can continue effectively, especially during this time of Lent, this time of fasting and self denial.

Remember we can fast or not – it is our choice. We can deny ourselves or not. It depends on the level of our faith. But the people I am seeing here do not have that choice. They fast and deny themselves every day.
Respectfully in Christ
Rev. Themi”

(Rev Themistocles Adamopolou
Orthodox Mission to Sierra Leone)

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8th March 2010

Highlighted Campaign for March 2010

Some time ago, I was looking at various websites about preventing animal cruelty, and promoting animals rights and all the things that we vegetarians are interested in, as we love and want to care about animals and protect them from the evils inflicted upon them.  One of the websites (which one I unfortunately can’t remember) said something about animal lovers wanting to care for their fellow human beings, as they are animals too.  It struck a chord with me at the time, as I think you will agree with me that in general, people who love animals are the sort of people who also tend to try and help others (ie their fellow humans) where they can.  Thinking about it has given rise to this post, which doesn’t highlight a campaign exactly.

Following is a short list of some of my favourite groups or charities which aim to alleviate the plight of a suffering humanity (in no particular order, with perhaps the exception of the first one!)

  • Mercy Ships (www.mercyships.org) – a global charity bringing “hope and healing to the world’s forgotten poor”, operating hospital ships in developing nations
  • CityCare Brisbane (www.citycare.org.au) – provides community services to marginalised people in Brisbane, eg the homeless, empowering them for a better future, bringing hope and opportunity to those facing hardship
  • Medecins Sans Frontieres (www.msf.org) – also known as Doctors Without Borders – an international, independent, medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, healthcare exclusion and natural or man-made disasters
  • Lifeline (www.lifeline.org.au) – crisis support service, with the well known telephone crisis line
  • Christian Blind Mission (www.cbm.org.au) – an international development organisation dedicated to improving quality of life for people with disabilities in the world’s poorest countries
  • Australian Red Cross (www.redcross.org.au) – provides over 60 community services, ranging from blood supplies and disaster services to first aid and refugee services.
  • Paradise Kids 4 Africa (www.pk4a.org.au) – seeks to help “break the vicious cycle of poverty through love and education.” Supports the work of Rev Dr Themi Adamopoulo who heads the Orthodox Mission to Sierra Leone
  • Union Aid Abroad – APHEDA (www.apheda.org.au) – fights for global social justice, for human rights, genuine sustainable development, self-determination, workers’ rights, equality, freedom and democracy. Most projects are in partnership with local unions or community organisations, and provide education and training to working people.

Certainly this should not be taken as anything like a comprehensive list, as there are a multitude of committed organisations out there doing great things for people every day.

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7th March 2010

Xiang Yi Vegetarian Heaven

15 Wu Chang St, section1, Taipei, Taiwan

It’s every child’s dream of paradise: you choose what to eat and have as much as you like. When you walk into the Vegetarian Heaven you pick up a tray and pair of tongs, and are confronted by a vast array of dishes. There is tofu prepared in various styles, mushrooms with a flavour so intense they must have been dried and rehydrated (I’d like to know how this works), the greens the Chinese do so well, broccoli, various other vegetables, a dark dish based on sea vegetables, a satisfyingly not-too-sweet black bean desert and (how far can the borders of Chinese cuisine be extended?) potatoes. You pay by weight; rice and soup are complimentary. This restaurant gives a wonderful insight into a traditional and entirely vegetarian way of eating. The only danger is that, as you work your way through the vast amount of food you piled onto your tray, you will hear a distant voice from your childhood: ‘Someone’s eyes were bigger than his stomach.’

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