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Abalone to civet cat coffee

WITH a beef burger in one hand and a cup of Crown Lager beer in another, one can easily get hooked on the efficient take-away service at the Australia Pavilion.

Bringing authentic Aussie flavors within the World Expo visitors' easy reach, the dining experience in the pavilion is enticing, fun and good value.

Retail senior chief Athol Wark specializes in using native Australian flavors and ingredients. He says that the Australia Beef Burger is so popular that he sells 600 to 700 burgers each day.

"Australian beef has a certain richness and flavor that you don't get anywhere else," Wark says. "It's important to use products directly from Australia."

Currently, the Australian Beef Burger Combo with fries and a soft drink costs 60 yuan (US$8.85). It is only half the price of some set dishes at other pavilions.

Beef Pies, weighing 100 grams each, sell 600 to 800 per day.

The Abalone Tasting Set, from the pure waters of southern Australia, offers a distinct fresh texture and taste. Featuring twin set with lemon myrtle, its local ingredients contribute to a unique tasting experience.

The Kids Combo for 58 yuan contains chicken nuggets, Lamington (sponge cake with chocolate icing), a drink and a finger puppet. For those with a sweet tooth, Lamington cake is a great dessert.

For those who are health-conscious, there's vegetarian fare in "Wraps."

"In planning our Expo menu, I love to showcase our Chinese visitors some old favorites and demonstrate the diversity and sophistication of contemporary Australian cuisine," said Wark, who also worked at the Australia Pavilion at the Aichi World Expo in Japan in 2005.

The eatery is open from 9:30am to midnight and there's music and other entertainment, such as the Airbourne rock show.

Since last October, Wark had been doing research, conducting training and working on equipment to get everything perfectly prepared for the Expo.

Philippines fare

The Travel Cafe in the Philippines Pavilion is a great place to take refuge and enjoy authentic dishes, ice drinks and famous civet cat coffee.

A traditional summer drink "Halo-Halo" is made with sweet gelatin, leche flan, purple yam, and sweet corn. At 35 yuan, it's cool and very filling.

April Dumlao, head of the Travel Bar at the pavilion, especially recommends Philippines Barako coffee.

"Barako means tough and strong. When you have a cup of this coffee, you will absoslutely stay awake and feel refreshed," Dumlao said. It's a blend of Arabica beans from the Cordilleras and Batangas Barak beans. For seasoned coffee drinkers, the Arabica blend is distinctive and satisfying.

The Travel Cafe also offers Alamid (civet cat) coffee, made from the coffee bean berries eaten by the cat, changed chemically in the intestines, and deposited whole in dung. It's much less bitter than other coffees and is said to be the most expensive coffee in the world. At 55 yuan a cup, it is served with free cookies.

Pancit Binand is a dish made with stir-fried rice and egg noodles with vegetables, shrimp, chicken, pork, squid balls and sausage. Dumlao considers it a must-try at the cafe.


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