Friday, March 31, 2006

Thank You Paula & Ace

Not many things can put me of eating my food. As far as I can recall there have only been three occasions in my adult life when I refused to eat my food. The first time was when I found a giant cockroach in my food (see Fast Train To Porkking entry). The second time it happened, I was on holiday with some friends in Cherating. We were starving and suffering from sun stroke. As we sat down to eat at one of the malay stalls by the beach, I couldn’t help but notice the swarm of flies circling what was going to be lunch. I had a bottle of water for lunch that day. And last but not least, the seriously lousy food I had at a “fine dining” establishment in KL. It was crap, the service was crap, I refused to eat. All this happened when I was younger therefore, precious and obnoxious because I took myself so seriously. Cringe. If I found a cockroach in my food now, I would remove it and carry on eating.

So several years later, at the ripe old age of 30, I encounter my fourth stomach lurching experience. It happened on Thursday whilst I was enjoying my fried rice with sambal ikan bilis and watching the American Idol repeat. Started off with crap and didn’t stop crapping for the whole hour. Ace has always grossed me out. That affected puppy-eyed look he pulls gives me the heebie-jeebies! I felt my stomach lurch as he sleazed his way through his song. I put the tv on mute and carried on eating. Once he was done, I turned on the sound again because I love hearing the judges comments. That was when I got really sick. Paula, Paula, Paula… Paula is a disgusting, dirty old woman. It was revolting the way she gushed and flirted. “Is that a scar? (pant…dribble). One day (breathlessly) you have to tell me all about that scar (fawn…moan)”.

That was it. I was done with my food. Paula and Ace might be the secret to losing weight for me. Everytime I want to eat, I just need to picture Paula trying to get into Ace’s panties. Arrrrghhh!!! My eyes, my eyesssss!!! I think I need to throw up…

Happy Birthday Uncle B

I rarely crave for soup noodles in KL. It is just too hot to be drinking hot soup. The only time I eat soup noodles in the comfort of my own home where no one but family gets to see my red and sweaty face! This morning I woke up in serious need for pork noodles. So I found myself driving around the neighbourhood looking for a shop that was open. Driving up Bukit Bintang, I spotted one on the left, turning right into Jalan Alor there were only back packers and empty stalls. Finally on Tengkat Tong Shin, Adik Beradik Chua was where I found my noodles. Packed full of msg. It satisfied my craving but I paid the price for about 6 hours after that. Must’ve drunk about 4 litres of water! I think I must be the only Chinese person who can’t eat msg. Maybe I am not Chinese after all because we are genetically programmed to embrace msg. That must be it. I am a kwai poh with jaundice.

Last Friday, Uncle B celebrated his birthday at Equatorial Hotel. It was a fun night with buffet spreads, a creepy one man band and aunties who line danced. I took a picture of the fruit carvings because they looked so beautiful in their ice basket. They remind me of wafer roses that use to garnish plates in Chinese restaurants. I remember fighting my cousins for them. I’m not sure why because they always tasted like cardboard. My favourites were the dragon and phoenix carrots and the little swans carved from turnips. Now its cucumber, orange slices, parsley and maybe if you are really lucky, a maraschino cherry. Yippee.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Flossy Buns

Flossy Buns. If you are not Malaysian, you’d probably think I just said something rude. When in actual fact, I am referring to fluffy white bread plastered with mayo and dusted liberally with chicken floss. Duvei was brought one back from Ipoh a long time ago. A year later, Bread Story came along. Although Bread Story (BS) appeared in shopping malls nationwide, it is actually a copy of Bread Talk (BT) which is from Singapore. The quality of refined white carbs in BT is far superior over BS. However, BS has one up over BT and that is the flossy swiss roll!

The first time I tried it was in China, at a train station. We were about to board and stopped by the many kiosks dotted along the corridors to the trains. I saw a fluffly cream coloured swiss roll which I bought for less than RMB1.00. I was expecting kaya, custard or some sort of sweet jam. Instead I got mayo and floss. It was a rude surprise that turned into sweet surrender. My sister and I were so upset we only bought one!

Imagine my joy when BS started making flossy swiss rolls! I introduced this beautiful thing to my friends who shunned it at first. Shrieking away from the mayo and turning up their noses at the mere idea until they took their first bite and fell in love. In fact I remember Super Lian cursing me eternal damnation for introducing it to her, “So gooood but so fattening! Aiyo, how ah?!” After that, flossy swiss rolls started appearing at our mah jong sessions. (left, Lian having some bun fun)

Sad to say, I have over dosed on the naughty things. Every time I walk past a BS store, I am drawn to it like an ex boyfriend calling you up out of the blue. I reminisce about the good old days and end up buying them “for old time’s sake”. But true to the ex boyfriend, once I have a bite I remember why I stopped in the first place. There is too much guilt associated with this sinful beast of a roll. Those hours, well, more like half an hour, on the treadmill, wasted. Sigh. I hate getting older, you get away with less and less. Such is life, until I get fit, its apples and butter-less multi-grain toast for me!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Drunken Prawns, Drunken People

Three Saturdays later, I found myself back at Jogoya with some friends. This time, I made a reservation. The trick is to go late if you didn’t make a reservation because all the kiasu families would’ve left by then. The restaurant is HUGE! There are about 8 different counters with everything from sashimi to steam fish to purple cheese tarts. I really don’t know what the big deal is all about. I’ve heard people say they serve unusual Japanese food. I even read a review about it in the newspaper. So where exactly was this special food because we sure as hell did not see it. If by unusual you mean curried tuna inari sushi, wasabi teppan beef and lamb murgh, then yea it was all there. It is also unusual to pay before you eat. Classy. It really adds to the quality buffet experience. Alcoholics beware, they do not serve alcohol. I repeat, they do not serve alcohol. Well, unless you count beer. Again, they make you pay for it before they will bring it to you. The waitress offered to go pay for us after looking at our indignant faces. The sashimi was fresh with tuna, salmon, scallops and oysters on offer. The tempura had a nice crispy batter. And that’s about where the good part ends. Its so uninspiring that I don’t even want to talk about it. I think we were all geared up for a sake-soaked night so needless to say the mood just wasn’t there. The counters are spaced so far apart that it takes awhile to get back to the table. According to Cuz, this is a perfect place to bring a regular bootie call for an obligatory dinner. Long walks from the table eliminate any sort of real conversation. You’ve been told.
The highlight of the night, 6 hours and copious amounts of alcohol later, was supper at Ye Chine. Who knew they had bak kut teh and all things porky? Why did we even bother going to Cynna? As you can see from the photos, everybody was happy and found peace at last.
Above, before alcohol. Right, after alcohol.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Fast Train to Porkking

Today I want to talk about the magical meat that we have come to know as pork. I don’t think I have an unhealthy obsession with the beautiful and luscious pig. In fact, I eat fish more than I do pork. I just want to spread the lard and share the joy of pork!

Although I commend all great chefs for their creativity in producing porkless dim sum, let me just say now that it just isn’t the same. It may be really tasty, fantastic even but when it comes down to the traditional siew mai and woo kok, chicken is just too poor a substitute! Look at char siu. Even the sticky caramelised sweetness can’t disguise the missing hint of flavourful pork. Ah yes char siu. My nickname for awhile but only after I became good friends with the man who used to call me fat cow. There are many legendary char siu stalls in KL. I favour Meng Kee on Tengkat Tong Shin over Soo Kee on Jalan Ampang (maybe because of the giant cockroach I found in my food once). Meng Kee is just as pricey but not as fatty. Lovely cuts of fatty pork, glistening with black, sticky sweetness that sticks to your teeth at first and then it just falls apart, melting in your mouth.

I am ashamed to say this but I have forsaken char siu for pai guat (right). If you ever find yourselves in Bukit Bintang area, drive down to Jalan Nagasari and you’ll find pai guat heaven on the corner of Jalan Angsoka and Jalan Bedara. It has lovely crispy edges that you can nibble and gnaw at. No need to tear off the meat as it falls of the bone quite happily.

Aunty Pai Guat has literally watched me grow up. And if it wasn’t for her pork, I wouldn’t be the strapping young man, I mean, woman that I am today. Well, this brings me back to my mum again, we’d often tapow char siu fahn from aunty after picking me up from school. I think I must have had char siu fahn at least twice a month for a good 10 years of my life. Then I went off to study and only had char siu when I came back for summer hols (twice a week during holidays!). Its funny how my eating habits started off quite healthy when I was young. Back then, I only ate lean char siu, chicken without skin, toast with no butter. What happened?! I suppose it was a blessing in disguise as I am sure if I had discovered the joy of fat then, I’d be blogging from a couch that I can no longer get up from.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

A Slice of Heaven

Its not often I bake. I never found baking gratifying nor therapeutic. I think its because I find it tiresome having to measure everything with precision. And I’m not clever enough to salvage a cake gone wrong. I mean, if my chocolate cake ends up more like chewy bread, I’m not going to drizzle olive oil and chopped rosemary and call it cocoa and rosemary loaf! I feel safe with cooking because I can always add and subtract along the way.

I’ve always loved butter cake with butter icing. I think it was from the many birthdays and anniversarys of my grandparents. Three times a year at least, we would make the 4 hour journey back to Ipoh; on the sometimes windy road, passing through small towns which consisted of 2 rows of shop houses whilst listening to the entire Tom Jones’ collection. We would always have butter cake with butter icing from Mrs. Chong. And like all good old-fashioned butter cakes, the icing is unabashedly tacky, and it must always be cream with pink & green piped-flowers. The most memorable cake was for my grandparents 50th anniversary, 5 tiers of glorious cream, pink and green! I almost cried when Duvei and I got to carry it. We ate up most of the icing by the time we got home. No one can make icing like Mrs. Chong. My grandfather has since passed on and my grandmother has stopped celebrating her birthdays in grand fashion. I have not had Mrs. Chong’s cake in awhile.

Aunt L heard of my penchant for butter cake and brought me a cake from Mrs. X in PJ (her identity shall remain secret as Aunt L refuses to disclose any sort of contact information, cake pictured left). I must say it was pretty darn good substitute. It is less oily, not as rich but the icing was still not quite there. It lasted all of one day in my house. That’s the sign of a good cake. Any cake that lasts more than 2 days in my house is a bad cake. The next day, on the rare occasion that I was reading the papers, I came across a recipe for old fashioned pound cake. The picture was of a cream coloured heart-shaped cake with pink & green piping! I hardly ever get excited about anything in the newspapers but this time I tore it out and pinned it to the fridge.

Today at 5pm, I turned off my lap top and went down to bake. It was raining and the weather was perfect for baking. Half an hour later, I popped my labour of love into the oven. I wasn’t convinced about the quantity of the icing so I only made half. Sure enough, it was just enough to cover the whole cake. Although, as you can see from the picture, this icing texture is meant to be piped and not spread! I am happy at the turnout. It was perfectly fluffy with the distinct salty butter taste and just the right amount of sweetness to take on the icing. Happiness! (above - before icing; right - after icing. No flowers unfortunately)

My mum thinks I should start selling my butter cake to her mah jong friends. Wow what a compliment from mum. If only I had Mrs.Chong’s icing recipe…

Meatballs & Midvalley

Against my better judgement, I agreed to meet my girlfriends for lunch at Midvalley. What a stupid idea! All I can say is thank god for car jockeys! They managed to find the quietest place to eat at least which was Ka Soh. I never understood what the hoohah was all about. We had the fish head noodles, vegetables, braised pork with fried man tou and tofu. It wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad. It tasted very simple and home cooked but I guess I wasn’t in the mood for that. I still think the fish head noodles are better at Raja Laut.

The conversation over lunch left me unsettled and frustrated. A feeling that has been nagging at me for awhile. No amount of pork is going to help this time! Ventured into Jaya Jusco and Carre Four in search of the elusive coffee beans my mum sent me in search of. It is so nice of people to block the entrance with their two trollys, one filled with groceries and children in the other. Completely oblivious of the dirty looks I am assaulting them with because they are too busy sending text messages. Aargh! Somebody save me from suburbia! Just as I was getting violently depressed, I spotted some pre-packed durian. I felt an immediate lift in my mood as I anticipate sinking my teeth into the fat, yellow pockets of creamy goodness. Pity they are pre-packed because I would’ve enjoyed using my durian as a conker to bash my way through the crowd.

The durians were disappointing but mum saved the day by cooking one of my comfort favourites, meatballs. Marinated minced pork balls, fried and braised with fried potato wedges, tomatoes, peas and onions. So I lied about the pork not helping.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Pavlovas, Corn Beef & Chicken Rice

Even though I like to bitch and moan about Alexis, I still find myself back there every now and then. I do like their pavs and the breakfast menu on the weekends have some healthy options. But of course the thing I love most on the breakfast menu is actually the corn beef hash with eggs benedict. Screw the fruit salad and muesli! I wish they would be a bit more consistent though. Last time the egg benedict was on top of a muffin, now the dish is smaller and comes muffin-less. The waiter gave us a long spiel about changing chefs and working late. Why do I always get the ones who like to talk? I must look like a really good listener!
When I’m starving, the chicken rice always hit the spot. It doesn’t come with kicap pekat but you can always ask for it. Anyway, a few people have been talking about the new Alexis at BSC so we found ourselves having dinner there last Friday. I wonder if this is the direction they are heading towards. I guess it is time for a new look. They are about 10 years old. White concrete floors, white paneled walls, white chairs, white everything. I don’t know if it looks clinical in the day but at night, the lighting is very dim and warm. The menu is slightly different from the other outlets, but it’s still the unmistakable French-styled portions. I ordered the duck confit salad and three bites later, I was done. Delicious though. But when is duck confit ever bad? All that fat and salt, mmmm…

The burger is still sucky. It reeked of “beef”. And it was incredibly salty but flat in taste. The pizzas were nicer than at GE Mall. Although the cheese they use are not very good. It’s the most bland quattro formaggi I’ve ever tasted! How is that even possible? Oh, and I have to correct my mistake about their lattes, its rm10, not rm9. Huh. I’ll still go back though. At least the service is always impeccable.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Sour and Spicy "Vegetable Feet"

Its a wonder that I am not any fatter than I already am. Growing up in a household like mine, every meal is a banquet. My friends are always shocked at how much food we have at each meal. My mum loves to entertain. I remember the food-fuelled parties well. The most popular being the popiah, lam meen and choy kiok (inset). Ironically, I don't care much for all three. Mum's made choy kiok for her mah jong kakis today. It looks like somebody threw everything from the fridge into the pot which is exactly what choy kiok is essentially, that is, leftovers. It really is the last thing I want to eat right now in this miserable heat. Can you imagine a hot steaming, spicy and sour bowl of soup at midday? I'm sweating just thinking about it!

Mum's popiah is a hot request from friends and family. Its never fun for me because mum would often get stressed at making popiah for 40 people (meaning we are only really expecting 20 people). The preparation would start 2 to 3 days beforehand. Chinese sausages need to be steamed, finely chopped then fried, eggs need to be fried and shredded, pork fat to be cubed and deep-fried, crabs steamed and meat extracted, and the list goes on. And then there's the piece de resistance, the sa kok. Shredded turnip braised over a slow fire with cuttlefish and pork. If we were to sell mum's popiah, we'd have to charge rm6 each!

Some of my favourite dishes from mum are steamed old melon stuffed with minced pork, lotus soup, pork & potato stew, chicken casserole, chicken rice, roast pork, king prawn noodles and glass vermicelli with shredded melon & dried shrimp. All her pork dishes are pretty good and since she subscribes to the 3 meat, 1 veg theory, we eat a lot of it! If you are ever hungry, do pop by because I guarantee there is something to eat. I keep telling my mum there is no need to buy and cook in bulk as the war was over many, many years ago.

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Saturday Night Out With Cuz

Our original plan was to try Jogoya (sounds more like a city in Indonesia than a Taiwanese chain of Japanese restaurants). However, it seemed like half the population had the same idea. We were told there was a one and a half hour wait for a table. Unheard of in KL! If we were kwai los, we’d probably have had a couple of drinks by the bar while we waited but because we are kiasu Chinese, we quickly marched to the next available destination. Feast Village doesn’t offer much choice for the discerning diner. Inspired by a browse in Jim Thompson earlier, we found ourselves at My Thai. Neither of us had been before.

It has a cosy ambience despite a very open concept. I say this because it took us a while to figure out the correct entrance to the restaurant. What we thought was a private “room” (open alcove), was actually the waiting area by the entrance. Who would’ve thought? It was full, with a mixture of locals and tourists. Wei was very happy to see the Chef was authentically Thai. The menu was extensive but what impressed us more was the vegetarian menu which was even longer than the regular menu. The prices are what you would expect from a restaurant in Starhill, pricey. It’s the same price as Rama V but without the fine in the dining.

We ordered catfish & mango salad, beef with ground rice & mint salad and pad thai. The catfish & mango salad was tasty but nothing out of the ordinary. The beef salad was weird. The beef had a very strange after taste, much like alkaline water. We sent it back and because it has an open kitchen, we experienced an awkward moment when the waiter handed the dish back to the chef. We were very close to the kitchen, a little too close to the cleaver next to him. We saw him taste it and he seemed to think it fine. So the waiter came back and explained that the beef had been marinated with mint and something else which resulted in the taste we were put off by. I explained that it was actually the beef because the taste only came after we had finished chewing. It left a horrible after taste. Anyway, he was very polite and promptly replaced it with a chicken, shrimp & pomelo salad. Much better! Although the coconut taste was bordering suntan oil, the strips of chicken mixed with pomelo came together to make a deliciously rich salad. What I want to know is where the hell do they get such juicy pockets of pomelo? They are like giant teardrops pulled taut with juicy goodness within. The supposed premium ones my mum buys from Ipoh look nothing like these. I feel cheated.
We didn’t stay for dessert because it was either a choice of fruit with sticky rice or something with more coconut milk in it. We went for a drink at Tiff’s Jazz Bar instead. Wei had a campari soda and I had a hazelnut latte while we listened to the band belt out “jazz” numbers from Sarah McLachlan and Toni Braxton (???). The drinks were surprisingly reasonable. RM13++ for the campari soda! A beer only costs RM12++. Cheap for Starhill. It would explain the very young crowd there. I think Wei and I were the oldest there. Harumph!

Ultimate Extreme Super Ice Blended Frappucino

It seems like many moons ago when the ice blended landed on our shores. The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf had the good fortune of being the first. I can’t remember how many times Wei insisted on having her Ultimate Ice Blended. Not long after, Starbuck’s, San Francisco Coffee and Gloria Jeans came along. This may come as a bit of a shock but ice blended coffee isn’t real coffee! There is only a single shot of espresso to half a pint of milk, sugar syrup, ice, ice-cream and whipped cream. The one in Coffee Bean is particularly bad. The coffee is so weak to begin with. I swear the decaf is stronger!

For me, it has always been San Francisco Coffee above the rest. And its home grown! Yes San Francisco Coffee is Truly Asia, Malaysia Boleh! The new shop on Bintang Walk is fresh and reminiscent of Singapore, in the best possible way. A glass structure designed to accommodate the environment! I’m amazed they didn’t just chop down the tree because we just love destroying our environment in KL. But then again, maybe it’s because they need it as shade since the roof is also made of glass. Who knows? Overall, it is cool, bright and the best part is it’s like being outdoors, indoors! Yay!

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Pack your bags, we're going to PJ!

My friend sent me an email with details on the best eats around KL and Selangor. I've never been to most of these places. When you've lived in the city all your life, travelling to PJ (and beyond) is going outstation as far as I'm concerned! I'd venture as far as Bangsar and Ampang. Beyond that, forget it. I've never understood driving miles and miles to have the best nasi lemak or best bak kut teh. Like how I don't understand why people drive to Port Klang to have seafood. I definitely would not eat the seafood that is fresh from that port!

I have to say I hardly ever eat at stalls/coffee shops these days. Firstly, its too hot in the day time and secondly, there aren't any good ones around my area. When I was working in Jalan Kuching, there was a fantastic chap fahn or better known as e-co-no-mee rice. Hate that name. Anyway, everyday at lunch, this old man would sell his wife’s chap fahn at a corner coffee shop. And like all chap fahn stalls, the price is a mystery each time. But it was dirt cheap for what you get. I like how it was not greasy, nor exceptionally tasty. It was just like home cooking would taste like, simple, wholesome and comforting.

After I changed jobs, I found myself spoilt for choice in Kelana Jaya with the many, many, many coffee shops offering seriously good food. Pahn mee, kway teow soup, sang har mee, claypot noodles to name a few. But the best had to be the pork noodle soup. Freaking hell! It was delicious. The rice noodle was always smooth and firm, the minced pork patties tasty and not too fatty. But the best part was the broth. I am highly sensitive to msg, another reason why I don’t eat at stalls much. I hate that dry and scratchy feeling in my throat. I hope they haven’t changed the recipe because it really was very good. It was clear and tasty without an overwhelming stench of pork.

My last job moved me to Segambut. I had a lot of Indian food there because we had such a fantastic stall at the office canteen. I love the kehseri and upuma the lady makes; with a lot of love and a whole lotta ghee! How could it not possible be tasty right? I remember having idli for breakfast after working out at the gym. Sometimes, I'd have the upuma if it was ready, or the nasi lemak. And I wondered why I didn't lose weight. During my last month at work, my colleagues finally shared the best pahn mee in town with me. Cruel, cruel people! After two and half years, not once did they talk about this place. I managed to eat there almost everyday until I left.