Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Holy Duck!, Kensington Street, Chippendale


If it were up to me to come up with a name for a new Modern Chinese restaurant with duck as the focus of the menu, 'Duck Restaurant' is probably the most exciting name I'd come up with. Luckily, Holy Duck! seems to have hired a much much more creative soul to name and create this fun and exciting newcomer to Kensington street's growing food scene!

The creativity doesn't stop at just the name either- just have a peek at their unique menu and you'll see what I mean. Holy Duck! is the latest baby of Chef's Gallery, and it brings some fresh new twists to Asian street food. And whilst I would have happily devoured my way through the menu through multiple visits, I was only too happy to accept and invitation to their VIP Preview night, where I could try a selection of their signature dishes in one go!

Roast Duck

As the name may suggest, the star of the show here is the duck- and more specifically- roast duck with menu items ranging from just plain roast duck to the classic peking duck pancake to duck burgers. And if the amount of duck is a little overwhelming, there's also other some chicken and pork on offer too. Think classic Cantonese BBQ. But jazzed up.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Chocolate Beetroot Cake

Vondelicious has moved to
You can find this post (and more!) over at my new home:

As I mentioned in my last post, I've only posted one cake recipe the whole year, so seeing as we are heading towards the end of the year, I thought it'd only be fitting that I start posting a couple more!

It's not that I haven't been baking at all, it's just that it hasn't been very often and not often successful. Surely no one wants to the cakes I burnt from when I accidentally turned the oven on to the 'grill' function instead of 'bake'. I'm not even joking- it's happened three times this year!

I tend to experiment quite a bit in the kitchen, and I love trying new recipes, new techniques, new ingredients etc etc. And because of the sheer volume of recipes I've bookmarked to try, I don't tend to go back to recipes unless they're really special and even then, it's not often that I will reuse recipes. As a result, recipes that have been a hit in the family do get forgotten over time, and it's not until I'm re-reading some of my older posts that I remember how good that particular recipe tasted.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Spiral Vegetable Quiche


There are days when I really put effort into my food looking good, and then there are days where I really cannot be bothered and as long as food is edible, it gets thrown onto my dinner plate. Most days it's the latter, which is why this blog isn't as full of nice home cooked meals and recipes as it once was, but occasionally I do get moments of inspiration (especially if I've been on Pinterest for a little too long)!

For those who have followed this blog for a longer period of time, you'll have noticed that the frequency at which I post, the types of recipes and posts I put up, style of writing etc has changed drastically from when I first started this blog. Whilst the blog started out being a place to document all my bakes and desserts, it has turned into a lot more of a collection of lunch dishes that I've been making as of late. In fact, as I'm quickly scrolling through the few posts I've written up this year, I have only posted one dessert recipe this whole year.

I'm still incredibly passionate about baking, and really enjoy whipping up a delicious dessert here and there, but of course the further I journey into adulthood, the less time I have for making these treats and saddingly, less calorie allowance for these too- these days, I'm finding that as much time is spent making these as it is trying to convince others to help finish them off!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pumpkin and chickpea salad

I was sure I had posted this salad on my blog, but I searched and searched....and nothing!

Ever since my new found love of pumpkin, I've been adding it to just about everything I can think of- soups, stews, pastas, stir fries, curries- you name it, I'll throw it in there. I can't say it always works (pumpkin soup is still my favourite), but here's one that does!

Sunday, November 13, 2016

XS Espresso, North Parramatta


I know I'm definitely part of the minority when I say that runny yolks aren't my thing (I prefer my yolks just set so it doesn't spill all over my brekkie) but when breakfast is this good, I'm definitely not complaining!

We've been meaning to visit XS Espresso since it opened up in North Parramatta, and are constantly reminded of it everytime we drive past the large unmissible XS logo.....which is just about every couple of days!

Monster Milkshake ($14)

The milkfreakshakes are really what we're here for, and they have an extensive list of options which make it difficult to choose. Luckily we have about 15 minutes to spare whilst waiting for a seat, but even that wasn't enough to narrow out choices down.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Cauliflower and Pomegranate Salad


It's not often that I'll order a salad when I'm out- salad bar salads always seem either to shiny (i.e. oily) and if I'm in a restaurant, it's never the most exciting item on the menu. So when we visited Embers Mezze Bar earlier this year, it was a good thing we ordered the banquet- or else I would never have tried the amazing cauliflower and pomegranate salad!

It's a shame the lighting was too dark to get a good photo of the original salad, but it was rather unique in flavour combination of cauliflower and pomegranate. I'm not usually a fan of cauliflower by itself, but deep-fried, it was amazingly moresish and the addition of crunchy almonds and pomegranate seeds made for an excellent textural contrast.

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Pea and Ham Soup


With spring well and truly here, my soups and stews which I've been making for lunch have to made way for lighter salads but I thought I'd just quickly squeeze in this delicious pea and ham soup before it becomes too warm to post it!

Believe it or not, this is the first time I've ever had a proper pea and ham soup- having grown up on mostly on mum's Asian soups or very occasionally, our handy collection of tinned condensed soups- which we tend to use for pasta moreso than as a soup anyway.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Korean Potatoes (Gamja Jorim)


I really need variety when it comes to lunch, so it's always handy to have a selection of side dishes in the fridge for me to mix and match for my work lunches. And of course when it comes to side dishes, Korean is definitely the first cuisine that pops to mind.

There's endless options when it comes to Korean side dishes, and I distinctly remember the one time we dined at a Korean restaurant where we were served over 20 different side dishes to start with. We were almost full by the time the mains came out!

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Chef's Gallery, Town Hall


If you have ever been to Town Hall, you would no doubt have walked past Chef's Gallery. With it's big glass windows showcasing the mastery of their well trained noodle chefs, it's quite hard to miss, as they transform their pieces of dough into beautiful strands of noodles. There's something particularly mesmerising about the process, the speed at which a thick piece of dough becomes elongated and multiplies right before your eyes.

I've always wanted to learn how to make noodles myself, so when the opportunity came up to attend a short noodle making masterclass with chefs at Chef's Gallery, I didn't hesitate to sign myself up.

To avoid the bustling crowds, visit in the morning just past opening and you'll find yourself in a pretty quiet restaurant (it doesn't take long for the restaurant to fill up though!). There are usually only a handful of seats by the kitchen where you can watch the action, however there's no need to fight over a nice spot today, with the chef wheeling the cart over to pull his noodles right in front of us.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Komachi Japanese Restaurant, Surry Hills


Japanese food isn't really the first thing thing that comes to mind when thinking Surry Hills, it's exactly what we're here for on a chilly weeknight.

If you've ever been on Cleveland Street, you'll probably have noticed Komachi Japanese Restaurant- the one with its front windows transformed into a wall of fame, featuring customers who have successfully completed their 1 kilo ramen challenge. There's 34 on the wall so far, but we're not quite brave enough to face the challenge- we're here to try their normal menu thanks to Washoku Lovers.

Edamamae ($5)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Travel | Tokyo 2016 | Sushi and other Japanese Eats

Fukusuke Horikawa

Our dinner at Fukusuke Horikawa was one of our first sushi meals in Tokyo and probably the only unplanned one as we had actually a last minute change of plans for the day and ended up in Ikebukuro. We were looking for a nicer place for a special dinner when we came across the lifts to the Sky restaurants located on the 58th and 59th floor and had a peek to see what was up there.

We were pretty much sold once we stepped foot in the lift, a sky themed ride up from ground floor straight up to the restaurant levels, I was so mesmerised that by the time I took my camera out, the ride was already over!

There's a handful of restaurants on the 59th floor, each with views but we chose Fukusuke Horikawa as it was one of the few Japanese options available. We made a quick reservation and returned for an early dinner- an excellent decision as it not only meant that we got to choose a nice window seat (with incredible views!) but we also got to watch the sun set and the city turn into a beautiful fluorescent lit environment.

We had expected to pay an arm and leg for the nice views, but we were surprised to find that the menu was very reasonably priced, with sushi sets starting from 1620 yen (~$20AUD) for dinner (less for lunch) and drinks on par with most other restaurants we'd been to in Tokyo. We thought we'd go a little fancy an opted for one of the fancier looking multi course sets (Yuraku set, 5400 yen ~$60AUD) and chirashi sushi to share.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Ricotta Pancakes


Quick post today!

I'm a huge fan of pancakes, but besides the one time I made chocolate pancakes, I've always stuck to the same trusty pancake recipe whenever I whip up a batch for brekky. Ever since my trip to Japan, where pancakes come in all shapes, sizes and flavours, I've been a little obsessed over pancakes and thought I'd start experiemting with some other recipes.

Seeing as I had half a tub of ricotta left in the fridge, I thought I'd try these famous ricotta hotcakes that people have been raving about for years. Perhaps I had my hopes too high, but to be very honest, I wasn't too impressed. Nevertheless, they're light and fluffy and quite pleasant to have- although I probably will be experimenting with other pancake recipes next time!

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Travel | Tokyo 2016 | Tempura

After spending a major public holiday in Osaka and Kyoto, the hustle and bustle of Tokyo doesn't seem foreign at all when we arrive at the busy Tokyo station. We had caught an early train from Kyoto to Tokyo, and although zipping past small rural towns, paddocks and Mt Fuji at lightnight speed, we arrive in Tokyo ready to continue our journey.

The problem with this being our later half of the trip was that we had gathered a considerable amount of luggage with us, and although we wasted a good hour or so travelling across Tokyo to Shinjuku, trying to check in to our Airbnb, realising that we were too early, trying to scour a luggage locker at the station before realising that it was going to impossible to leave our luggage anywhere. So we took it with us to lunch.

Our lunch plans were to visit the Michelin starred restaurant in XX, however we were once again disappointed to rock up an empty, and closed restaurant due to public holiday closures. Dismayed, we walked down the busy touristy strip, trying to find a restaurant that was large enough to fit not only the two of us, but also our bulky luggage (it was not easy). Which is how we ended up at Asakusa Tokyo.

Asakusa Tokyo
Asakusa Tokyo is a chain of restaurants all over Tokyo serving predominantly tempura and soba/udon. It's a cheap, no frills, and food comes at a speed that is almost faster than a fast-food style. There's tempura just about anything on the menu, and you can order the pieces individuall with beer for a satisfying snack, or if you're after something a little more substantial, you can order the set meals. We go for the latter option, which come with a selection of tempura, rice/noodles, soup and a side- all for under 1000 yen ($12)!

Tempura Selection with Soba Noodles (980 yen)
I go for the mixed tempura don with soba, which comes with prawns, fish and a variety of veggies. As delicious as it looks, we're a bit disappointed with the tempura which is quite soggy by the time it reaches us, as the sauce is poured over the tempura pieces rather than being served on the side. The batter is a little on the heavy side, and the addition of sauce turns it to a more dough like texture than a light crispy one. That said, it was still an enjoyable meal that I would happily have at home- perhaps it's

It's might not look much, but it's a ridiculous amount of food for one, with the bowl being filled with plenty of rice, as well as a full serving of cold soba noodles and dipping sauce. We're glad we didn't get two set meals!

Monday, June 20, 2016

Travel | Tokyo 2016 | The Ramen Edition

Our Japan trip was really planned around food, and for the Tokyo part of the trip, we were spoilt for choice when it came to ramen.

六厘舍 Rokurinsha

On my first trip to Japan, Rokurinsha was on our list of ramen restaurants to try, however we were not successful in visiting as the queues were just too long to fit into our itinerary. This time I allowed plenty of time to make sure we got our bowls of noodles before we left the country!

Even so, it took two attempts before we finally made it (I forgot to factor in the fact that they close shortly after breakfast service!). And even though we had timed it so that we visited just as they were opening, we still found ourselves queuing for over an hour, with plenty of hungry tourists keen for a taste of the famous ramen.

All menu options are essentially the same thing, just with different variations of toppings. Don't be fooled by the photos above- there's actually a lot more toppings hidden within the soup itself than it appears. The soup is thick and super rich, and quite unique in that it has little more of a fish taste than we're used to, as a result of the mackerel that is used to cook the soup base as well as the small pile of ground fish flakes sitting atop the nori sheet.

You can also choose your size of noodles, ranging from 180g to a whopping 570g, depending on how hungry you are. We opt for the more reasonable regular size (280g), which we find perfect for ourselves.

風雲児 Ramen Fuunji

And long queues seem to really be a commonality between all ramen restaurants we visited in Japan, with Ramen Fuunji being perhaps the longest queue we endured. Don't be deceived by the short looking queue in front of this restaurant, it breaks just outside the entrance to allow people to walk through the footpath, and continues all the way through the park on the other side. Once you make your way into the restaurant, you'll also realise that it continues all the way along the back wall to the other side of the restaurant!

The queue does however move quite quickly, as we notice most diners are very quick to slurp down their bowl of ramen. The only slow pokes are the foreigners (us) who aren't accustomed to slurping ramen at lightning fast speeds, and although the pressure of having and endless queue of hungry diners helps us eat more quickly than we otherwise would, we notice the seats around us being filled 2-3 times before we reach the bottom of our bowls.

Special Dipping Ramen (1000 yen) with extra egg (100 yen)
The wait is not as bad as it seems, as once you enter the restaurant itself, the efficiency and almost rhythmic work of the staff is quite mesmerising, especially that of the owner, who almost effortlessly produces bowls and bowls of ramen with incredible speed and calmness.

The timing is also perfectly executed, such that the noodles are placed in front of us as we seat. But logistics aside, the bowl of ramen is really the star of the show here.

Fuunji's broth is made from a mixture of roasted fish and chicken (rather than pork) bones, and although it doesn't sound like the most exciting combination, it certainly packs a punch. The broth doesn't taste much like chicken and is just as meaty in flavour as your typical pork based ramen broths, but also rich and satisfyingly creamy at the same time. It's a very unique flavour which we fall in love with instantly, and quickly declare it our favourite ramen in Tokyo.

Special Ramen (950 yen) with extra shallots (100yen)

Whilst most diners opt for the Tsukemen option, there is also the option of ramen which is just as delicious. For an extra 100 yen, we also got a very generous sprinkle of shallots on top of the ramen!

Nagi Ramen

We did try to focus our ramen adventures mostly within the Shinjuku area where we stayed, but it ended up spanning a much larger area and the shops being a lot harder to locate we had first thought. Nagi ramen was easily the most difficult to find, especially as we had tried to locate it in the dark and in pouring rain, as the entrance is literally a small stairwell located in an alleyway, marked only by a small sign, camouflaged within the many different neon signs lining the alleyway.

Walk up the incredibly steep stairwell and you'll find yourself in the smallest space you could imagine, almost like a small attic that was designed more for storage than as a restaurant. We're lucky enough to snag the last two remaining seats in the corner we'd otherwise have the trek back down the stairs to queue- there simply isn't enough space in the restaurant or the staircase for anyone to stand. They've even got a bit of a DIY PVC pipe running from the kitchen to the entrance of the restaurant to let diners know when a seat is available in the restaurant!

Unfortunately I didn't manage to take a nice photo here (it was too squishy for me to bring out my camera), so here's a quick one from my phone. The broth is not of the thick porky type as it is sardine based, but is not fishy at all, and we quite enjoy the slight smokiness of the soup.

麺屋武蔵 Menya Musashi Shinjuku

Our ramen adventures in Shinjuku wouldn't be complete without a visit to the well-known Menya Musashi, easily the most spacious ramen joint we've come across. So spacious infact that it can fir the whole queue within the back wall of the restaurant, the lack of queue outside making it even more difficult to find.

The flavour of the soup is really intense, and the volume of soup given in comparison to other Tsukemen we've had in Japan give an indication of how concentrated the broth is. Infact a little too overpowering for me, I had to add a little bit of soup to thin it down a little, but delicious all the same. Rather than chashu slices, Menya Musashi's pork comes in the form of chunks which are meltingly tender and satisfying.

Rokurinsha1-9-1 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo, Japan (Tokyo Station Ichibangai Basement Floor, B1F Yaesu South Exit) (map)
Ramen Fuunji2-14-3, Yoyogi, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, Japan (map)
Nagi Ramen1 Chome-9-6 Kabukicho, Shinjuku, Tokyo 160-0021, Japan (map)
Menya MusashiK-1 Bldg. 1F, 7-2-6 Nishi-Shinjuku, Shinjuku-ku (map)

Friday, June 17, 2016

Travel | Kyoto 2016: Ramen- Impossibly large, delicious and firey!


Ramenso Chikyu Kibo

Our Airbnb host had kindly provided us a guide to the local area, and starred all the restaurants he recommended- this was the only one with three stars so we had to try it. If you’re anything like me and plan your trip around recommendations on the internet, you’d never end up at this restaurant (search the name up on google and you’ll barely find a mention). About the tiniest ramen bar I’ve been to, Ramenso Chikyu Kibo inconspicuously tucked away within the quiet residential area of Fushimi (not to be confused with Fushimi Inari).

Blink and you’ll miss it.

There’s no signage to the restaurant, nor is there any type of fancy décor. When we first walked past it before they opened, we honestly thought it was a warehouse. And we probably wouldn’t have realised it was the restaurant we had on our itinerary were it not for the line of people outside!

Before you hop in line, order from the vending machine- we’d used a couple of these before at other ramen shops so we thought we’d be fine…..until we realised none of the options were in English. Since the only word I could really read was “pork” and “noodle”, which wasn’t particularly helpful in this situation, we took a random stab at the machine and ordered two of the dearer options thinking it’s probably be more interesting than the cheaper ones.

The machine spits out coloured plastic tags instead of tickets, with a different colour corresponding to a different ramen (there were a couple of people in line with the same colour as me so I figured I was off to a good start). As the waiter informs us, the shop sells large sized ramen- so if you don’t think you can finish it all, add a peg to the tag to indicate you want a smaller portion. You’ll probably want to add the tag, even if you think you’re hungry, because if you order the regular size, you have to finish it all!

The restaurant is mostly self-serviced- there’s a little shelf at the entrance where you grab your heated hand towels, chopsticks and water. Place your tag on the counter and your ramen will be served. Hopefully you will be hungry too…..

Mystery Ramen #2 (regular size) 900yen

Because they were not kidding when they said their ramen were large!

For the regular sized ramen, the bowl is filled to the top with noodles, and then topped with a ridiculous amount of meat. Forget the two thin slices of chashu you usually get with your ramen- these are big, thick chunks of stewed pork, with enough pieces to cover the noodles completely!

Topped with enough garlic to give you garlic breath for a week (optional), the ramen was definitely not lacking in flavour! The broth was soy based, and not too heavy, such that the meat was what was giving it most of the flavour. The noodles are of the thicker variety and remind me of the maze soba I had in Osaka, although maze soba is dry whilst this one is in soup.

Mystery ramen (small sized) 1050yen

For the smaller sized ramen, the bowl is filled with less noodles, but still easily enough to feed two. We’d ordered two different ramens but we soon figured that the only difference between the ramen options were the toppings. The 1050yen version is the most expensive on the menu, and comes with a mountain of meat, made up of pork belly chunks as well as the slices of stewed pork. The meat is surprisingly tender and moist, especially the sliced chashu which we see cooking away in a big pot in the kitchen (I’m not as much of a fan of the pork chunks which are quite fatty). There’s enough flavour without being overly salty and the meat could easily be served as a dish in itself! Even if impossibly large serving sizes aren’t your thing, you’d want to come and try the ramen for the pork slices.

We're slow to make progress, with all 6 other diners who started at the same time as us leaving before we’re even halfway through (we’re not used to eating at a fast pace!) but we did end up finishing our ramen, a feat we do feel proud of!

Arashiyama Bamboo Groves

There's only really two tourist spots we're particularly keen to see in Kyoto, one being the red gates at Fushimi Inari-taisha, the other being the bamboo groves in Arashiyama. It's my second time visiting and it's interesting how much more details I noticed this time, for example these mini stone set models set up on the side of the path.

But food first! We love the little set up of small stalls right at the entrance of the bamboo groves and we're eyeing all the ice cream options, given the warm weather.

We end up going for the super creamy soft serve, which is very reasonably priced considering its location!

The bamboo groves are as beautiful as we remember, and just like the photos although with the crowds, it is impossible to take a perfect shot. 

We venture further in hopes of finding the perfect photo spot, without the crowds and end up stumbling upon this beautiful lake.

Ramen Sen No Kaze

We were yet to have our ramen fix for the day, so we queued up at Ramen Sen No Kaze which I’d bookmarked from somewhere (but had no recollection of it). The wait was quite long, and I must admit, we almost decided to give up and try the ninja restaurant across from it instead. But boy were we glad we didn’t!

We’re seated right at the bar so we watched all the action whilst we waited- all ramen are made to order, so be prepared for a bit of the wait. You can order the ramen alone, or for a little bit more in a variety of sets which may include anything from rice to gyoza to salad. I still don’t understand why people eat rice with ramen but maybe that’s just me. 

We order ours with gyoza, which are premade and frozen and then slid onto the gyoza grill to heat for a couple of minutes. We’ve enjoyed every gyoza experience in Japan and this was no exception- with its delicate thin wrapping and beautifully crisp bottom. There are three sauces to dip them in, but I find the soft pork and cabbage filling tasty enough to eat on its own. 

But as delicious as the gyoza are- save your stomach space for the ramen!

The menu notes that the most popular ramen are the Yamato no Miso and the Kyo no Shio- with the miso variety more popular with the tourists and the shio variety more popular with the locals. Of course we try both!

The Yamato no Miso soup base certainly packs a punch, with a strong bold flavour from the miso- I can definitely see why it’s so popular with the locals. There’s a good balance of flavours such that the lightness of the pork broth is still noticeable, and the miso too salty nor overwhelming. The noodles are nice and bouncy, and there’s quite a bit going on with the toppings, in the form of bean sprouts, shallots and minced pork.

And while we’re speaking about the toppings, let me draw your attention to the chashu. I don’t usually really care much for chashu in ramen- it’s nice and all, but there’s a bit too much fat for my liking and not that exciting. This chashu however, is not simply a matter of stewed pork belly- they even dedicate a special grill just for heating the pork belly slices! Each pork slice is grilled until golden with a light char- it’s not a simple process, and we watch quite a few get thrown away from being overcooked. But the result is quite amazing- the grilling enhancing the complexity of flavours and imparting a light smoky flavour. And the fat is so crispy, it’s like bacon. Only better. 

The Kyo no Shio is apparently more popular with the locals, but as even tourists, this one is the one that really knocks our socks off. The toppings are basically the same, and again the chashu are three slices of heaven that we wish we’d ordered more of. But with this ramen, even the chashu can’t steal the spotlight away from the soup base. 

Whereas the miso flavoured broth had quite a strong flavour, the shio (salt flavoured) one is much lighter and subtle. It’s surprisingly creamy, almost like drinking a milk based soup but with the fragrant taste of pork, and it’s one of the less oily soup ramen broths I’ve had in Japan. There’s quite a few reviews on Tripadvisor rating it as the ‘best’ ramen they’ve ever tried, and whilst I don’t really usually believe anything ever the ‘best’ (everything’s relative right?), I’m actually quite tempted to join that clan.

We head to the Nishiki markets for a quick stroll after lunch- a long covered market with plenty of food offerings which we find quite similar to the Kuromon Ichiba Markets in Osaka. As tempting as all the offerings are, we’re a little too full to try anything so we let our camera do all the ‘eating’ so to speak……


We’re back at Fire Ramen for dinner as they re-open at 6pm- it’s not quite as popular as we’d imagined, despite its high Tripadvisor rating, with only a handful of tourists when we arrived. We were imagining long queues but maybe having ramen lit on fire isn’t everyone’s thing.

No photos for this one, because cameras and fire are a no-no. The whole counter looks a bit oily and burnt, but they do take safety seriously, with a number of safety instructions prior to serving the ramen- almost like the mandatory safety demonstrations you get before a flight. All personal belongings are to be placed out of the way, aprons are given to protect clothes, hands are to be kept behind you and running away is not allowed. Any fringes need to be tied up, fountain style specifically (for the lols), and they even provide a selection of coloured hair elastics for this purpose. Talk about Japanese hospitality!

We opt for the ‘special set’ (2150yen) because it is the only one which comes with a ‘cool badge’. It also includes fire ramen, fried rice, gyoza and fried chicken but who really cares about that when you have a cool badge?

The fire ramen itself isn’t particularly special, a simple bowl of ramen topped with plenty of green onions. It’s a little on the salty side and quite oily after the fire, but we were really more here for the experience than the noodles. And what an experience it was to have your ramen light up in a massive flame only inches away from your face!
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