Thursday, March 29, 2012


Leap years were always something that confused me - it's a strange thought that someone could be aged 72 but have only had 18 birthdays. For those of you that may have lived under a rock for your whole life, a leap year contains an additional day and occurs only once every 4 years which is why the Gregorian calendar (the one we all use), has 29 days in February this year.

My Grandmother, however, was born on February 30th -something that has always managed to confuse our European friends (and various immigration officers). The following conversation would then entail an explanation of how the traditional Chinese calendar is still used widely in China and how many have their Chinese birthdays recorded on official documents. 

Hence, a lot of confusion ensues.

So, to avoid future confusion, her European birthday is now on the 29th while we continue to celebrate her birthday according to the Chinese calendar. I've recently found out that this is actually quite common among other Chinese people and many use it to their advantage by having two birthday celebrations -one for the Gregorian calendar and one for the traditional calendar! Pretty clever, if you ask me!

This year, my family celebrated grandma's birthday on March 21st, which is actually the 29th day of the second month according to the Chinese calendar. The menu for her birthday celebrations are usually the same every year -Peking Duck, Lobster Noodles and a few other Chinese dishes to go with them. By a few I mean at least 10. This family is big on food. 

Peking Duck -$48 for two courses
This year, instead of the local Hong Kong style restaurant we usually frequent, my mother booked a big table at a Vietnamese restaurant in the hopes we would all branch out -but not so much that we have to miss out on Peking Duck. Sapa doesn't actually have Peking Duck on their menu, but strings were pulled because it's my grandmother's all time favourite dish and, considering that it's not something they usually serve, the chef certainly did a fantastic job. The duck skin was sliced perfectly and the spring onions were bundled up in chili skins which we all thought was a neat touch.

Peking Duck - second course
Again, I feel the need to commend the chef on serving something that isn't even on the menu. The second course of the Peking Duck was perfectly seasoned and beautifully presented. The combination of duck meat, preserved vegetables and the addition of nuts was like a flavour explosion in my mouth -possibly even the best second course I've had!

Secret Pork Casserole
Vietnamese Style Prawns
Black Bean Beef
The next few dishes that came out were pretty average. There was nothing wrong with any of them, but none were spectacular. The secret pork casserole tasted strongly of cloves but the Black Bean Beef was very tender. On to the next..

Crispy Chicken
 Crispy Chicken is my grandmother's all time favourite dish which she orders at every chance and, luckily for her, was one of Sapa's specialties. The meat was  tender and moist while the thin layer of skin was made extra crispy -a feat that I have seen few Chinese restaurants achieve.

Stir fried fish pieces
Another dish that deserves special mention is the stir fried fish. As a family who usually orders a whole steamed blue cod, having our fish already cut up was a welcome change. The fish was very fresh and the flesh fell apart in your mouth (but miraculously stayed intact in between my chopsticks!).

Egg Foo Young
I'm not entirely sure how this ended up on our table, but it couldn't have been a mistake (we were the only ones dining in that night). To be perfectly honest, I didn't give it a good try because I had pigged out on the numerous other dishes that night and Egg Foo Young just never seemed like a restaurant dish to me. Like some of the previous dishes, this was average and slightly underseasoned.

Sapa had a few average dishes but some real highlights. Although we were the only ones dining that night, I noticed that they had many takeaway customers. The decor was brilliant and waitress was very friendly and attentive.
Sapa Vietnamese Restaurant can be found at  Unit 7, 357 Albany Highway, Albany.

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  1. Born on November 30! That is fantastic :-).


  2. It's been two weeks since I had a Chinese feast and I could lick the screen! :P

  3. Happy Birthday to your Grandma! I bet it was an amazing feast, those Peking duck courses sure look good :)