Thursday, June 22, 2006

Something sweet

It's been a pretty tiring week and I'm sure all you World Cup fans out there have been dragging yourselves around like zombies. Well, freshen up with something sweet for the coming weekend!

And nothing hits the spot better than a hot tummy-warming bowl of birds nest soup with gingko! It'll give you that much needed boost of energy, better than any Tongkat Ali! So you can keep cheering on your favourite team!

*sings the World Cup cheer* Wo-oh-oh-oh-oh...Wo-oh-oh-oh....

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Blueberry Smooshberry

I didn't have much appetite yesterday for lunch so I thought of grabbing a bun from the nearby bakeries. I walked up and down the mall, round and round visiting every bakery only to have my stomach churn as I looked at the various innovative and colourful confectionary inventions they call buns nowadays.

Finally, I decided upon an interesting bun called "Blueberry Sunrise" from Breadtalk. Gasp! I bought a bun from the bakery I swore never to buy from! But this bun did look rather nice. It was nice and round with a squishy blueberry circle centre and a piped-in custard ring surrounding it.

I took it back to my office and happily opened the bag, eager to sink my teeth into the juicy-looking blueberry filling and egad(!) the idiotic server had put the bun into a bag which naturally stuck to the sticky open filling! I gently drew out the bun trying to save as much filling as I could but sad to say, my blueberry was now smooshberry all over the inside of the bag! was a sad sad lunch chomping on an empty bun!

By the way, can anyone tell me why the buns in these boutique bakeries are so terribly over-priced?! Or better...why are they still so full of people despite the horrendously high prices?!

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Peel Road Yong Tau Foo

Sis has been telling me about this really yummy Hakka Yong Tau Foo (YTF, for short) in Peel Road. After much persuasion, she agreed to take me there during one of my long lunch breaks. It's in a little wooden house/shop thing with fold-tables all around and umbrellas to protect you from the sun. Not exactly the Ritz but if the food is good, who bothers about being a little hot and sticky, right?!

Their choices of YTF are laid out in the centre of the shop and are constantly being added on, fresh from the frying wok, as they disappear too quickly!

The lady in the blue hat is draining freshly fried YTF, hot from the wok!

Left: Tofu, meatballs and fishballs and Right: Chillis, fried tofu, bitter gourd and ladies' fingers

Right: More tofu stuff and fu-chok (beancurd skin)

You make your choice of the spread of delicious YTF before you then fill out a little piece of paper provided and pass it on to the lady in charge.

All these for 3! :)

Then, you make your way to an empty table (if you're lucky) and wait for your number (ours was No. 47) to be called! According to Sis, they have "specials" everyday as well and they do a pretty mean asam fish. However, their main special of that day was curry chicken which we didn't feel like having. We did order another of their specials though - pork trotters in vinegar!

Trotters cooked in black vinegar with lots of ginger slices

I took a mouth and was immediately transported back to my childhood days when Grandma used to cook this. All the while I thought it was a Hokkien dish only to be told it's actually Hakka! But it was very home-cooked with a rich sour broth. My only complaint is that the meat was rather fatty but others said it was just fine!

Our first dish of ladies fingers, tofu, bitter gourd and brinjal. These were stuffed with fish paste then lightly fried. The fish paste was one of the best I'd eaten! I always thought Hakka YTF was fish paste mixed with meat but this was purely fish paste which was tasty and "fishy", ie it tasted like it had a good portion of fish in it instead of starch.

Some fishballs and meatballs (bigger ones). The meatballs were really good! One of the best I've tasted!

And our last platter of fried various stuff. Clockwise from right: A fried shui kao (wantan wrapper with minced meat which was very big and good), a fried fish cake and some foo chok (beancurd skin with a thin sliver of fish paste in between).

Overall, it was a very satisfying and filling lunch! :) And definitely one I'll return to again, if I can! Thanks to sis!

Monday, June 05, 2006

World Cup Fever!

How are you heralding in the 9th of June?! Why, I'll give Carrefour Subang top marks for their innovative display!

The whistle blows, the crowd cheers...

The players fight over the ball...(See the little guy on the left? He's got a funky almond hairdo!)

The goalie rushes to defend the goal...

Keep score with a buttery score board!

What an adorable edible display! It's cake with a kiwi marzipan playing field as spectators made out of little chocolate danish puffs watch and cheer the chocolate and icing-covered players run around with the chocolate puff ball!

4 days more to go...*preet, preet*

Tong Shin Char Kuey Teow

I was introduced to this stall by my boss who said this was one of the best char kuey teow in KL. I thought it was good too until my recent visit. This stall is in a lean-to by the side of a row of shops in Tengkat Tong Shin in Kuala Lumpur. They specialise in char kuey teow but also sell fried rice, fried mee, popiah, prawn mee and fishball noodles/soup.

The kuey teow is fried by an oldish couple who each have their own wok. I was told that the taste differs but maybe I don't have the tongue of a char kuey teow connoiseur for I cannot tell the difference between the two.

We start our meal with a glass of the leung char which is usually tung kua longan (dried longan and candied wintermelon strips). It costs about RM1.30 and comes in a large beer mug. Its sufficiently thick and tastes homemade but can be a tad sweet. We usually ask for the hot version so its not adulterated with ice, and then ask for ice later to cool the drink down. Sneaky? Yes! :D

This is the Char Kuey Teow which is the speciality here.

Its usually well-fried and tasty. It comes with a pretty generous serving of prawns and cockles and tauge. Unlike many places the dried sausage is fried separately and then sprinkled on top. That day when I went, the noodle was rather bland and not aromatic. I was disappointed but noticed that if you go during peak hours of lunch time when there are many customers to serve, the standard does tend to drop a little. However, in the evenings, or when there are fewer customers, you get a much better fried noodle. The small serving is RM4 and the large RM4.50. We have found that the large serving can serve 2 so we save money by ordering a large one and a side dish.

The side dish of the day was fishball soup, as that was what I was craving.

You get 10 fishballs for RM3.50. I was told they get the fishballs from the other corner shop down the road which purportedly serves the best fishballs in town. However, having tasted both stalls I prefer the texture of this one. Maybe it has to do with the way its cooked but I find them more springy and tastier. I'm not the first one to realise this.

I do still like the char kuey teow here, but I'll make sure I go only during off-peak hours for nothing tastes worse than bland char kuey teow.

Guest-blogged by tuktoyaktuk

Thursday, June 01, 2006

A Hidden Gem

With the recent number of cafes and restaurants sprouting up like mushrooms in the Klang Valley, it isn't always that you stumble across something nice. Well, I stumbled upon a hidden gem in Taipan, USJ the other night that I just have to share! The family had eaten there twice and kept raving about the freshness of the food and its generous portions so I had to give it a try myself!

It's called the Big Boy cafe and it's a clean, cheery little family-run establishment. The little vases of orchids on each table add a certain whimsical charm. Big Boy has a pretty extensive menu of both local and Western food, complete with pictures of some of the food and at rather decent prices.

They even have their own coasters! And best of all, a free flow of water is provided throughout your meal at no extra charge. Quite hard to find this trait nowadays. Most places insist on selling only mineral water at exorbitant prices. Service for both the food and water refills was very fast and efficient. But on to the food!

Bro decided to give the lagsane a try. We were all pleasantly surprised at the size of the lagsane when it came. It was a huge, generous slice that filled up the big plate. Some cafes I've eaten in give you only half of that portion above! It was sufficiently cheesy and well baked. Each lagsane sheet was generously filled with minced beef and every bite till the last had a nice combination of beef and pasta.

Dad tried the chicken chop. Sorry for the camera phone picture quality. It was a generous sized chicken fillet, smothered in a slightly spicy but delicious black pepper sauce. I tried some and it was really good, tender cuts of chicken that went really well with the sauce.

I wasn't too hungry so I opted for the fried calamari rings. It came with a very interesting black-bean sauce. This was indeed a good choice as the calamari was wonderfully fresh and perfectly cooked, unlike some rubbery versions out there. The batter coating it was deliciously crispy and not at all soggy and the sauce added a certain East-West fusion to the appetiser dish.

It's a pleasant little place with lots of mirrors and nice Renaissance pictures on the wall. What struck us was the high quality and freshness of their food. They offer wines (list on the pink slips on every table), quality Twinnings tea and even Segafredo gourmet coffee! Every dish of theirs is cooked with very fresh ingredients and prices are pretty reasonable.

My family had on a previous visit tried their Seafood Pasta which was really fresh and generous with their seafood. Seafood's one of the best ways to test how fresh the ingredients are and Big Boy did pass with flying colours! That's one dish I've gotta try next!

Big Boy's located in the new row of shophouses in Taipan, behind True Fitness gym.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Sungai Besi Wan Tan Mee

If you are feeling peckish late at night or are working late and missed the regular dinner time, never fear!! Just trundle down Sungai Besi and you'll find what is touted to be one of the best wantan mee in town!!

The stall is located next to a car mechanic (they use the premises after the shop closes) and is after the BP station, after the former Malaysian Tobacco building (now Niichi Fashion City). There is limited parking if you turn in the side lane where the stall is, and sometimes people park along the side of the road. Thats pretty dangerous if you ask me coz cars whizz by along that road to the North-South highway, with great abandon.

As this stall only comes out after the car shop closes, don't go there till about 8pm or you'd have to help them set up stall.

They specialise in..... you guessed it, Wantan Mee! They have dry/soup varieties of mee in small, medium and large. You can choose your own topping from the varieties offered, which amongst others are, char siew (bbq meat), siew yoke (roast meat), char yoke (meat braised with wood fungus), BBQ spare ribs, chicken feet and mushrooms, curry chicken, shredded chicken, duck braised with ginger .... (and I forget the rest)

Wantan Mee with duck braised with ginger
The noodles are nice and springy. There's 1 man specifically assigned to doing nothing but cooking the noodles! Its the only wantan mee I eat because there is no floury/lye smell in the noodle. However, I found it a bit of a rip-off as all we got was about 4 pieces of duck! This was the Medium sized one which is approximately RM5 (I forget the exact figure as it was a while ago)

Wantan Mee with Char Yoke

I had the small noodle with char yoke - Approx RM4.30 (?) but again, they are pretty stingy with their toppings, so the noodle ends up being expensive. It was sufficiently tasty but I don't think they drained the water from the noodle enough, so it was a tad watered down.

The char siew looked nice hanging from the glass enclosure as it was sufficiently burnt around the edges with a nice sheen. But when I saw the man slicing them, I opted NOT to have it. He was slicing them paper thin, and spreading them on top of the noodles like confetti!! You'd hardly be able to savour them before its all gone.

We also had sui kow (dumplings) which I recalled from previous occassions as being plump and crunchy and nice. However, what came was a slimmed down version of what I remembered. There was a lot of excess skin, the inside was not crunchy and it had decreased in size to something resembling a large wantan! At RM0.90 a piece, you'd be better off not eating it.

Pros: Fast, tasty food available late when you don't know where else to go for hawker food.

Cons: Expensive, small portions of toppings and don't have the sui kow

Guest-blogged by: tuktoyaktuk

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Convenience Food

There are times when even a foodie has to resort to convenience food, crappy as they may be. I was a bit busy today so lunch was a quick grab at the food section of the neighbourhood 7-11 on my way out. I chose the most appetising-looking thing there which was this:

Fried beehoon! It was a pretty decent portion - a plastic tupperwareful for RM1.80. It was spicy Malay-style fried vermicelli, with some onion sambal and some strips of fried omelette. It even came with its own plastic take-away fork!

I think it was provided by one of those home-based industries which have a steady supply to all 7-11 branches. The label even had a nutritional analysis which was quite surprising as most of our local food like nasi lemak doesn't have a nutrition analysis. The calories and fat in nasi lemak will probably scare a lot of people off if they knew what was in there!

It tasted quite decent, though a little on the oily side. They were pretty generous with the sambal and fish cake slices which I liked! The sambal wasn't too spicy and was a little sweet. However, it perhaps wasn't too good an idea to stick the fork on top of the noodles as it resulted in a pretty oily fork.

And, that was lunch! Washed down with a cup of my favourite green tea.

There you go...proof that Funky Cookies doesn't always make you drool and feel hungry!

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sharksfin Street

One reasons why I love Bangkok is the availability of interesting street food all around you at every hour of the day! Every hour of the day sees their local buying and eating food! It's a wonder how they remain so slim! Chinatown is especially famous for their sharksin soup. Every restaurant proudly display in their windows trays and trays of fresh sharksfin (with their prices) and some even include the huge dried fin. However, for those who can't afford the sometimes expensive sharksfin from the restaurants, don't fret...because the streets of Chinatown are full of sharksfin soup stalls at night!

Around 8pm, stalls like these will start dotting the streets of Chinatown. And because it's Chinatown, their signs have Chinese characters as well which makes ordering a lot easier for us who don't read Thai! This particular stall does sharksfin in 2 different sizes - THB300 and THB500 (which converts to slightly under RM30 and RM50).

You can order from them according to the prices they quote or you can choose your own sharksfin and they'll quote you the price. The second shelf of the stall is the fresh sharksfin. They lay it out on these flat rattan pieces (if you peer hard enough, you might see the fins which are the lighter brown frilly things on the rattan "plates").

And here it is! This was the THB500 bowl. It came served piping hot in a claypot bowl with a side of raw beansprouts and a very healthy dose of greens - parsley and spring onions. On the table is the omnipresent picked chillies, fish sauce, etc the Thais so love!

I especially fished out a piece of sharksfin to show you what it looks like. They're quite generous with their fins and it is considerably cheaper than eating it in KL. Often, a bowl costing RM80-RM100 gets you a bowl of goopy stuff with only a few fins while these are thick chunky pieces in a not-too-thick, fragrant broth without that same goopiness of the crabmeat-sharksfin combo.

I've tried both - those at the stalls and those in the restaurant and we've reached the conclusion that they're both pretty similar. The main difference, of course, lies in the prices (restaurant ones can sometimes be up to THB3,000 to THB6,000) and the size of the fins (restaurant ones are the real pao chi - thick pieces of fin).

Apologies to the activists out there...but this is one real lip-smacking treat!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Madam Kwan's

We had lunch today at Madam Kwan's, MidValley. I hadn't been there in a while. They were doing a roaring business in the jam-packed restaurant. However, to my surprise, service was pretty fast as our dishes came very quickly after our order.

Madam Kwan's serves mainly local hawker-style food but with style (and of course, steeper prices too). They use nice porcelain plates with nice spoons and the best part, provide nice big saucers of chilli padi! We ordered cold water and every water jug of theirs has a little strawberry floating inside to flavour the water! However, there wasn't much flavour at all!

I didn't bring my camera so I had to "borrow" this pix from Boo. My photo taking skills are not as great as hers! Boo...hope you don't mind!

Colleague #1 had the char kuey teow (approximately RM12). This took quite some time in coming as I believe they actually fry each plate upon your order. I didn't get to ask her how it was but it looked pretty good and was a decent-sized portion. I did notice quite a lot of squid and prawns amidst the noodles and she was enjoying it so I suppose it was really good!

Colleague #2 couldn't decide and our unanimous recommendation was their Nasi Bojari (RM19)! I had this once and fell in love with it! They serve a bowl of multi-coloured rice with a nice big fried chicken leg, assam prawns and your choice of beef rendang/chicken curry. It comes nicely presented on a nice round fragrant banana leaf which makes that eating experience that little bit more authentic! My colleague really loved it and polished up every bit!

I had the Ipoh Hor Fun (approximately RM12). Oh dear, bad choice. The soup was absolutely tasteless and the beansprouts raw-tasting. The hor fun was smooth and slippery though as it should be. There was quite a bit of shredded chicken (tasteless!), 2 big prawns and a whole handful of chives (I hate Chinese chives!). So, unlike my colleagues who were tucking into their lunch with great enthusiasm, I didn't enjoy mine too much.

There are lots more other dishes on the menu and I've heard lots about their Curry Fish Head! Good tasty food but a little on the steep side. Enjoy nevertheless...and I really don't recommend the Ipoh Hor Fun!

Boo did a post on it too!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Lunch in Bangkok

When in Bangkok, Dad loves staying in Chinatown (Yaowaraj Road) cos of the fabulous food in that area. It's mainly authentic Teochew style food and long-forgotten cakes and delicacies which are no longer sold here can be found in the little stalls there.

One of our favourite haunts is a simple little stall at the front of an alley which opens up to a market specializing in fish balls and fried fish cake. I love the way the Thai hawkers always have that ubiquitous little glasses of chilli and fish sauce at every table. For a chilli-lover, it's wonderful having as much chilli as you can eat right at your disposal without having to constantly call for more.

Clockwise from bottom left: Crushed chilli flakes (oh-so spicy!), Fish sauce, salt and my favourite pickled chillis (sour and spicy - what a lovely combination!)

We ordered a combination of their egg noodle and kuey tiaw. Their kuey tiaw is deliciously smooth and served dry. However, their dry version doesn't involve any dark or soy sauce. It's served with just a dash of fish sauce and sesame oil. The cook then throws on a handful of freshly blanched beansprouts, spring onions and finally - what I loves best...fishballs and slices of their homemade fishcake.

Their homemade fishballs are very soft and not springy like some commercial ones. Hopefully, that means less boric acid used! The fishcake is actually fish meat seasoned with fried onions and prepared in long rolls which are fried before it's sliced into pieces for serving. It's really delicious, I haven't been able to find an equivalent here yet.

Because the fishballs are so good, we always end up ordering an extra bowl of fishbowls! Sigh, I want to go back to Bangkok again! It's cheaper than our noodles here too. A bowl of noodles costs less than RM3 which makes it good for second helpings! :)

Note: I've seen the Thais eating these type of noodles in a fascinating pink soup as well! Thanks to RealThai for enlightening me! I have to give it a try next time now that I know what it's called!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Steamed food

There are times when I'm so glad my Chinese race perfected the art of steaming food. I love steamed food. Perhaps it's the steamy fragrance that tantalises the tastebuds when you lift the cover, the piping hot "comfort-food" texture, the way the steam locks in the juices of the meat making it incredibly tender, or just the magic of putting some meat and ginger on a plate and watching it turn into a beautifully fragrant, tender dish surrounded by a light, tasty stock.

We had some belly pork the other day and Dad steamed it with little pieces of salt fish, ginger slices and some chilli paid for added zing. It was lovely! There was a little too much salt fish, though. We tend to overestimate such things! The broth was really nice, lightly flavoured by the meat with a tad of saltiness and zing.

We had something steamed again the other day, but with chicken instead. Sis bought some chicken thighs and had marinated them in the usual oyster sauce marinade, intending to fry them with mushrooms and ginger. But I managed to persuade her to steam them instead. You can't really see much under all that ginger and mushroom but the chicken was wonderfully tender. It was a dish created by accident and one recipe I'm certainly going to keep!

How I miss my home-cooked dinners!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Restoran QQ

Although we're in hot, humid Malaysia, there are those cool and rainy days when I crave for something hot and soupy. Often, the good ol' steamboat comes to mind. We normally go to a steamboat restaurant in Taman Desa when the steamboat cravings strike but for a change the other night, we headed down to Pudu.

Somewhere in the deep, dark maze of Pudu is a bright and cheery restaurant called Restoran QQ. They specialise in something called the "Hong Kong Poon Chye Steamboat" for RM68.

It looked rather interesting but was way too much for 3 people to share so we settled for their ordinary steamboat with a mixture of soup and porridge for the steamboat.

QQ has their own home-made chilli in green and red which didn't show up too well here. I didn't really like their chilli. It was spicy, a bit sourish and tasted rather odd, as if some major ingredient was missing from it.

Our steamboat! Half was a herbal soup base with some Chinese herbs (I think it was yok chok and kei chi) which was quite refreshing while the other half was a smooth gruel-type porridge. I was too hungry and dug into the porridge first before the ingredients came and was pleasantly surprised to find that it was already flavoured, hopefully not with ajinomoto!

A huge platter of raw seafood on a bed of chinese cabbage arrived soon, much to our delight. From bottom clock-wise is some Japanese tofu, crunchy jelly fish and fish paste noodles.

On the other side is quite a few pieces of chicken, 2 prawns, a white pomfret (which was very cleverly sliced to look like 2 fish!) and your requisite various balls and dumplings. The vege ball (the orangey thing) is one of my favourite and the beef ball next to it was pretty good.

And, on the last plate, some beancurd skin, 2 eggs and a ball of yee meen.

Dump all the raw ingredients into the boiling soup and porridge, wait for it to come to a boil and enjoy! This was my first time eating porridge-style steamboat and it was rather interesting but a lot more filling than the soup type. The raw seafood and fish/meat/vege balls flavour the soup and porridge as they boil, leaving a lovely stock. Just towards the end, sis cracked the egg into the porridge which made it a really yummy flavoured end to the meal. Nothing beats swirly egg in hot porridge for comfort food on a cold day!

The Star ran a review on it too!