Thursday, February 26, 2009

Breakfast Series 01 - Express Eggs Benedict

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day for me. It sets my mood for the rest of the day. Well, eating mood anyway. I'm a big time snacker so the more dissatisfied I am with a meal, the more I am inclined to snack. Which is why its so important for me to satisfy a craving, if any, first thing in the morning. I do miss living at home when there are so many more options. Fried mee hoon, nasi lemak, fried rice,... Breakfast items in my kitchen consist of bread, muesli, eggs and fruit. Bawwwwring. This morning I decided I wanted to have eggs benedict. I just bought some fresh kampung eggs and a loaf of L'Artisan organic rye, but I ain't going to make hollandaise at eight in the morning. So I made a cheat's version instead using mayonnaise, wholegrain mustard and a splash of balsamic vinegar. I found the vinegar essential as it just lifted the heaviness of the mayo. Its not hollandaise but its pretty darn good for 30 seconds! 

As for the poached eggs, when I was boiling the water I realised the last time I poached an egg was more than 4 years ago. Damn, what did Gary Rhodes say again? I just remember that one had to poach them in barely simmering water 
and to swirl the water to make mini whirlpool effect just before you ease the eggs in. The whirlpool is to help he whites stay together as they tend to form wispy white threads that separate. The first one was close but the second one was much better. The whites were smooth and egg yolk, partically cooked with just the right amount of ooziness. I don't use vinegar because I detest the taste on the eggs. There are all kinds of recipes online telling you how to poach the perfect egg. You want the fail safe way? Break the egg into cling wrap, tie it up tight and chuck into simmering water. Otherwise you will need: 
  • a small pan. Fill with water, at least 3 inches deep. Break egg into bowl. When water comes to gentle simmer, make mini whirlpool and slide egg in. The water shouldn't be simmering at this point. 
  • If you want it runny, take it out immediately after whites are cooked (1 min). You can also lift it up with a slotted spoon and give the yolk a very gentle prod to check the doneness.
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard and splash of balsamic vinegar
  • And there you have it, poached egg with cheats hollandaise and wild rocket on rye

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Good Food Hails From Ipoh

Lamb & Dough enjoying lunch at Tien Chun

Curry mee (with roast pork), hakka mee, ngah choy kai, chee cheong fun, sah hor fun, pork satay, hiong pang, sah kok foo pei and tofu fah are possible names of my unborn children. Imagine how deliciously happy you would be when you are cuddling Hiong Pang and giving Chee Cheong Fun a kiss. Awwww, makes me want to pop one out. But for now, they remain as Ipoh's heavenly gifts to mankind. I don't go to Ipoh very often so when I do, I try to fit in a much food as my stomach can fit. We arrived just in time for lunch but first we had to have a bowl of birthday noodles at Grandma's. Then Aunt B arrived with Siamese laksa which we also had. It was delicious. If I remember correctly, it was homemade. Then we went off to Tien Chun as usual. I know most people don't think its all that great but for us its full of memories and we go there mainly for old times sake. Mind you, after only eating Old Town hor fun, the one at Tien Chun reminded me that there is nothing like the real thing. And it wasn't even that great on that day but it was already miles better than the stuff you find in KL. Its the water I tell ya. Its all that chalk. Anyway, we also indulged in pork satay. Oh, this is one place where you can find chee charp satay (pork innards). The satay is not great. Shocking I know. Skewered pork grilled over charcoal fire, not great? Yes, it just tends to be on the dry side. The popiah was very good that day. 

Before we left on the following day, we headed over to another restaurant favoured by the family, Pusing Public Seafood Restaurant (Mun Choong in Cantonese). We had freshwater prawns stir fried with soy sauce and spring onions. It was D-licious  as always. All that lovely oily gravy is fantastic when mixed into fried rice, which we also had. The best dish of the day, steamed Soon Hock. I had just about written this fish off after two bad overpriced experiences in KL. One at Noble House and the other at Lai Po Heen (Mandarin Oriental). It was overcooked and rough. Why was I paying Soon Hock prices for barra-freaking-cuda tasting pile of crap?! Thank you Pusing Public for restoring my faith! This soon hock was cooked to perfection. The texture was smooth, firm and utterly delectable. Theres nothing better than steamed fish (when cooked right!) and white rice with soy sauce. Mmmm... We had the token vegetable of course. Stir fried lotus, lily bud, gingko and macadamia. Sweet, crunchy and appetising. We ended the meal with red bean soup which I heard was good. It wasn't until we were near the highway when I realise I had forgotten all about wun tao long and rojak! Sigh, somebody ta pow for me! 

Best soon hock I've eaten in a while!

Pusing Public at Jalan Verasamy, Ipoh. Tel: 05 2419348

Sunday, February 22, 2009

One Night In Ipoh

The most beautiful girls hail from Ipoh, which explains why I fall in love with my reflection in the mirror every morning. Yes, my creamy skin like the smoothest tofu fah, red lips like a rose bud and a delicate demeanor to match. Snort! If the first line was true, then I think I was seriously short changed. The women in my dad's family are indeed blessed with creamy complexions but there is nothing delicate about their demeanor nor robust size. Every year when we meet for the big occasions, its easy to spot the in-laws. They are thin. The rest of us, well, we're shapely.  

My grandmother, my only living grandparent, celebrated her 90th birthday this weekend. It wasn't a lavish affair. It was mainly family, distant relatives and old friends. We celebrated at Oversea and a few of us cousins decorated the place with balloons and ribbons. We took some family portraits but it was such an ordeal. Try herding 30 of your most boisterous relatives. Hah! Its no wonder we don't take family portraits often. Ten minutes later, two of my aunts are shouting at everyone to "leave" and everyone scuttled off to the restaurant. Halfway through the meal, I realised that something was missing. Well apart from some relatives who have departed and family who couldn't make it. It was too...Civilised. Gone were the days when heated arguments between siblings would ensue after a couple of whiskeys. There were near fights, with utensils too, tears, vigorous finger pointing,... In between, my late father always trying to calm him siblings down. My father always said he was a lover not a fighter. Ah, I quite miss all the drama actually. Now, everyone is much older and less passionate about fighting. Even my very feisty grandmother has mellowed. To be honest, I didn't like her much when I was growing up. Not many of us grandchildren did. She never hugged us and was quick to discipline. Now, I completely understand. She had 9 boisterous children and really, did she want to spend "quality time" with 30 more snot faced brats? I bloody wouldn't! However, at the ripe old age of 90, my grandmother now resembles a grandmother. She no longer colours her hair a dark aubergine. She doesn't criticise anymore. Instead she imparts wise and powerful words that reverberate for days and years after.

Dinner at Oversea was mediocre. We had hot & cold starter platter, sharks fin soup, roasted suckling pig with glutinous rice, steamed kampung chicken with what looks and taste like luncheon meat, sweet sour deep fried garoupa, noodles and lotus buns. The suckling pig was really outstanding! It vanished in 2 minutes on our table. There is more meat with the crispy skin and beneath that glorious fattiness is a bed of glutinous rice that has been soaking up all the lard! The rice was too oily for me. The noodles was really good. But the one that my sis and I was waiting for was Mrs Chong's butter cake. No one makes butter cake like Mrs Chong. For as long as I remember, there was no other cake, year after year, birthday after birthday. Its always marbled with chocolate, and the icing is always cream with green leaves and pink flowers. It was just as good as I remembered. I only managed 3 small slices. That night, I had major indigestion from all that rich food. After dinner, we all hung around the family home and spent most of the time reminiscing and watching the next generation play the same games we once did. 

Happy 90th Birthday Grandma! Thank you for your wise words and giving me my fun, mischievous and kind father, my amusing aunts and uncles and nutter cousins!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mini Vay-K to KK

clockwise from top left: do people really get their ears cleaned at barbers?; tom yum meehoon with prawns; Lamb having his babycino; roast duck noodles; giant cockels! Run for your life!

Sometime last year...
Sis: Hey you want to come to KK with Lamb and I?
Me: *gasp* No thanks
Sis: Comelaaah. Com'on, you should spend some quality time with your nephew. Now that you have moved out, he is quite lonely you know...
Me: Er... 
Sis: I'll pay for your trip
Me: Okay!

Sometime last month...
Sis: Our flight is at 9:50am ya
Me: Huh?
Sis: Our flight to KK lah
Me: (still blank)
Sis: Don't tell me you forgot
Me: No, no of course not... Remind me again?

That was how I ended up on a mini vacation to KK with my sister, nephew and Pal. I've never been to KK. And if I had remembered I would've planned a trip up Mount Kinabalu. It was a little too late so I guess I'll just have to visit again. I like KK. It reminds me of Ipoh but with better weather and surroundings. It has the old charm of a small town. Even more idyllic when placed next to the sea. Pal's friend Judy was kind enough to pick us up from the airport and ferry us to lunch at a kopi tiam famous for its tom yum noodles, fish head mee hoon and deep fried tofu. Restoran Janggut is located at Hilltop and is only opened for lunch. It was extremely busy when we got there and took quite awhile for our food to arrive. The noodles were tasty enough but surprisingly mild. We also ordered a side dish of deep-fried goodies which was fantastic for soaking up the soup. Pal ordered her favourite pickled chicken feet. They look like a plate of aliens when it arrived. Blanched and tossed in a sweet and sour dressing with raw onions, its a little too gelee for me.

On the whole, based on the places we went to, I found that the food in KK was light on the palate. I think most of my friends would find it slightly on the bland side. I loved it! I loved that there was no msg anywhere! Two dinners at Chinese restaurants and on both occasions, I didn't feel parched in the slightest. Wonderful! On the down side, I truly absolutely detest corn starched sauces. Bad chinese food has ruined hot and sour soup and chicken sweetcorn soup for me forever! I now avoid anything that even looks like it has traces of corn flour in it. So it was to my horror to see almost every dish at the Chinese restaurants we went to drowning in gloopy, glossy, thick sauce. Ugh. On our first night, Judy took us to dinner at Restoran New Lu Yang. It seems like a neighbourhood tai chow with an emphasis on seafood. They don't serve pork here. Infact, a large number of places don't serve pork. I gather its because there is such a large population of Indonesian workers here. Most of the wait staff were Indonesians. Anyway, one of the better dishes at Lu Yang was the black pepper venison but I wouldn't make it a point to go there specifically for that dish. The second night was a little better. We went to a restaurant called Garden Seafood which is located on the road that leads to KKIA. Infact, its only about 5 minutes from the airport. Every now and then we would hear the roar of a plane's engine much to my nephew's delight. We had a very nice fried fish with sour mango salad and spicy calamansi dressing. The fish was very fresh (we saw it being scooped out of the tank) which always helps. We ordered crabs with cream sauce. Again, it was more like cream starch. Shudder. I can't remember much about the rest of the dishes. Obviously they failed to leave an impression. Perhaps we just ordered the wrong dishes.

We spent two nights at The Jesselton. It claims to be a boutique hotel. It definitely belongs to a bygone era. The rooms are clean and the shower works but you can tell the hotel has seen better days. However the location is fantastic as there are plenty of places to eat and its walking distance to the jetty. We caught a speed boat to Sapi Island. Apparently the least crowded among the 5. Oh, there are quite a few counters at the jetty. Go to the ones in the middle as they are more popular and therefore have more frequent trips back and forth the islands. Anyway, Sapi island still looked pretty darn packed to me despite it being low tourist season. The shallow part of the sea was crowded by Chinese tourists snorkeling. At around 3pm the crowd dissipated and it was lovely and serene. The island was also full of monitor lizards. BIG monitor lizards. They were kind of creepy and cute at the same time. Hmm, I know a few quys that fit the same description. Anyway, there was little Hongkie boy telling his dad that he had seen komodo dragons. And his dad is telling him not to tell lies. Few minutes later, "WAAAH chun hai yau koh-moh-doh dra-guns ah". The island shuts down at 4pm so we only got to enjoy one hour of serenity. If you come with a tour, there is an option of including a meal. We saw all the tourists enjoying a big buffet. We were one of the few locals who ate at the cafe on the island. Its more like a mamak stall really. It might have been the heat and hunger but I swear the fried mee hoon and fried rice was surprisingly good! 

Clockwise from top: starchy cream sauce eeew; fish head noodles; pan mee with sui kow and beef ball (???); pickled chicken feet

Lamb was surprisingly awake but still hungry when we got back. So Sis and Pal went to a bakery nearby and bought tonnes of buns back. Old fashioned chan pow filled with all kinds of filling. Red bean, coconut, pineapple, peanut and custard, we tried them all! Thats one thing we noticed about KK. They like 'em bakeries. Every fourth shop sold some carbs of some kind. No wonder I was 2kg heavier when I got back. On our last day, we had pan mee for breakfast at one of the many coffee shops around our hotel. The pan mee was strange. I've never had sui kow and beef ball in my pan mee before! And no chilli! How odd. We were not completely satisfied so when we walked past another cafe and saw roast duck noodles, we quickly ordered a plate to share. The noodles were springy and lightly seasoned. The duck was pretty tasty and tender. Before we left for the airport, we had lunch at Sugar Bun Cafe. I love Sugar Bun in Kuching but the one in KK wasn't as good. Think they were missing the key ingredient - MSG! Anyway, KK is a fun place to visit even if you don't dive. Mind you, its not as cheap as we expected. The prices are more or less the same as KL if not more. For example, our pan mee breakfast cost RM5 per bowl and the tom yum mee hoon with prawns on the first day was RM10 per bowl. 

Marathon update: I've been back on the treadmill since being sick, etc. I'm doing 1 minute spurts for now. Its all my knees can handle for now. I'm happy to say that my stamina has already improved after 3 sessions. I tell you, there is an inner Florence Griffith Joyner in me dying to get out. If only I could shed the marshmallow padding on the outside. Sigh...