Monday, August 31, 2009

Happy Merdeka - Long Weekend Baking

A quickie post. Merdeka Day for me means peace and quiet in more ways than one. Its also a good time to catch up on untried recipes and cleaning out the closet. This long weekend for me involved a lot of cooking. We had some friends over on Saturday and I managed to make a simple Chinese meal of lotus root soup, cold beancurd with sweet and sour pickled vegetable, steam fish with ginger spring onion and soy dressing and a mildly spiced chicken curry. Mum would be proud! The lotus root soup tasted just as good as Mum's. Unfortunately the cold beancurd was a bit of an acquired taste I think! I love it! The following evening Ducky came over for a belated birthday/buka puasa dinner. We had beef fried rice and leftover soup followed by Hunky's tarty lemon tart for dessert.

There is nothing more lovely than the aroma of freshly baked goodies. So I made a banana loaf although I should have let the bananas ripen more. Also I think it needs a little more butter but overall its a pretty healthy banana loaf. Heres the recipe if you would like to try it.

150g brown sugar (you can add more, original recipe calls for 250g)
140g unsalted butter, softened
2 eggs
250g ripe bananas, mashed (I used pisang raja)
280g plain flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp soda bicarbonate
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
  1. Preheat oven to 170C. Grease a 23 x 13cm loaf tin
  2. Beat butter and sugar in mixer until well incorporated, add the eggs.
  3. Then add mashed bananas.
  4. Add flour, baking powder, soda bicarbonate, cinnamon and ginger into the mixture.
  5. Pour into prepared tin and bake for about 45 mins - 1 hour depending if you have a fan assisted oven. Mine is the latter and took only 45 mins.
  6. Leave to cool in tin slightly before turning out onto rack to cool completely.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dish-turbingly Good

Above: Roast bone marrow with parsley and capers salad; Boo's pan seared foie gras
Below: Charred to perfection, our US Prime Rib; potatoes roasted in duck fat, it was alright
I rarely venture into Delicious unless I am meeting Crispy for coffee as he happens to live in Dua. I'm still upset that they took away the only dish that I like which was the agedashi tofu with mushrooms. They used to be good about three restaurants ago. When it was just Bangsar and 1 Utama. I spent quite a lot of my weekends there, hanging out with friends and indulging in shoestring fries, decadent death by iced chocolates and abundantly fresh and crisp seafood salad. Now the food quality is too inconsistent to risk when hungry. After many, many months of curiously wondering what they were going to do with the space that occupied the ground floor of Dua Annex, Dish was finally revealed. Dish is the new fine dining concept by Delicious group. It occupies the other half of the delicatessen of Delicious Ingredients. The layout implies casual dining but the menu prices suggest much more. After studying the menu one day with Crispy, I was eager to get the girls to dine here with me. So one Thursday evening, Boolicious, Lyrical Lemongrass, Ciki and I found ourselves sharing a bottle of Cloudy Bay sauvignon blanc over a surprisingly good meal.

Lobster omelette in a pool of buttery lobster bisque RM58
If there is one common complaint about Delicious, it would be the bad service. At Dish however, service is excellent! Shockingly so that I nearly fell off my chair. The staff are knowledgeable, attentive and quite sweet really. Even when they insulted me, I'll come to that later. To start, roasted bone marrow, foie gras and foie gras parfait. The bone marrow arrived looking rather impressive, like 3 mini silos filled with buttery goodness. And after you're done eating them, they make great fashion cuff bangles! Only if you are built like a tiny ah lian of course. The marrow was paired with a parsley capers salad which was a delicious contrast of flavours and textures. I was told that it needed a little more salt by LL and Ciki. Meanwhile I was busy tucking into my foie gras parfait on melba toasts and raspberry jam. It was smooth and delicately flavoured. Of course it paled in comparison with Boolicious' pan-seared foie gras which was to die for! But then again, I don't believe I've met a foie gras I didn't like. For mains Ciki had grilled tiger prawns while the rest of us shared a 1.3kg US prime rib with rocket, roast potatoes in duck fat and portobello mushrooms (all RM12) on the side. The tiger prawns were lackluster and the texture was soft which meant that they were not very fresh. We fared better with our prime rib. It was beautifully charred but a little rare for me. LL and Boo like it like that so I ate the bits around the edges which was covered in fat. If you like fat, you've like this. It came with a couple sauces which wasn't necessary because there was already so much flavour in the meat. I did like the truffle butter but the chimichuri sauce was too piquant.

Above: black forrest pavlova with fresh cherries; gorgeous crepe suzette. Below: my crunchy in the middle orecchiette, my only gripe - little more oxtail please.
For dessert we had crepe suzette and black forrest pavlova. Both desserts were equally as good and were devoured very quickly. The crepes were just the right thickness and orange cognac sauce was buttery and gorgeous. The black forrest pavlova was a chocolate meringue topped with bailey's cream and fresh cherries. Light as a feather but full bodied with flavour. We were also offered some petit fours in the form of a dark chocolate truffle and a lemony marshmallow-like candy. The following week I was back again with Danish Pastry & GF. I had told him about how wonderful it was and he insisted on going there for dinner. I wasn't going to turn it down especially when he was buying dinner! This time I ordered the lobster omelette for starters and orecchiette with oxtail stew for mains. The lobster omelette was served in a pool of lobster bisque. The lobster was sweet and springy in the egg. And even more sublime eaten with the flavourful bisque. The only thing was that it was also incredibly rich. When my main course I arrived, I just ate one fifth of it. I basically picked out all the oxtail bits as the pasta was slightly undercooked. One more minute would have been perfect. This was crunchy in the middle. I was told later that "this type of pasta is cooked this way". If I wasn't so full and delirious from the good food I would have felt indignant but I just let it slide. The chef is obviously talented with an ego of a diva to match. Firm with a bit of bite is good but not when it hurts my teeth Mr Chef. Apart from that, I couldn't really fault my second experience at Dish. The menu would be best described as Australian. Its not huge but offer good variety. Expect to pay RM150 per person on average for three courses. The good thing is that wine is very reasonably priced here.

Danish Pastry's pan roasted duck breast with foie gras and some sort of fruit reduction thing. It was nicely done but the flavours did not come together.


Dish - Dua Annex, Jalan Tun Razak. Open for lunch and dinner. Other reviews - Masak-Masak

Monday, August 17, 2009

Bangsar Seafood Garden

From left to right: deep fried boneless chicken with fruit sauce; deep fried snapper with bean sauce; stir-fried prawns with special curry

Last Thursday I was lucky to be invited to a food tasting at Bangsar Seafood Garden. Its been a while since I've been to one of these. For me it was as much to do with eating as it was meeting some of the other bloggers. I've only been to BSG one other time and I was not impressed. I was eager to see if the second time would be better. After all, this restaurant is clearly successful. Its been in Bangsar for as long as I can remember and everytime I drive past, the restaurant is always nearly full. There were just over 20 of us, 17 cameras, 10 courses and bottles of alcohol on stand by. Actually what am I talking about. Frat Mustard was already drunk when I arrived!

The evening had its hits and misses for me. It started off with the three dishes pictured above. The boneless chicken was reminiscent of a good lemon chicken without the lemony-ess. I love lemon chicken so this dish was definitely a hit for me. Can't go wrong with chicken and mango. The next dish was a fried red snapper with bean sauce. This was mediocre for me. The sauce overpowered the fish which was what happened with the prawns as well. I really appreciated how fresh the prawns were and found the strong curry far too distracting. Others found this to be delicious just the way it is. To each his own right? My two favourite dishes of the night were the stewed chinese cabbage and cream crab. The stewed cabbage was full of flavour from the dried scallops and mushrooms. The cream crab was so fresh it was practically doing the breast stroke in the creamy sauce. I could have eaten the two crabs by myself. Alas, damn the other 9 people on the table. I think we were on a budget that night as we only got 12 miniscule but very pretty butterfly-shaped buns to eat with the crab. 6 steamed and 6 fried. I was lucky to be able to grab a fried one. The salted egg yolk crab was pretty good too. We already had 7 courses by this time so I only managed half a leg and shared the other half with one part of Le Couple Toy.

There was also fried rice with crab claws that had been stir fried with salted egg yolk. I love the crispy bits with the fried rice. The three dishes I liked least were the egg omelet with crab meat - it was a little on the dry side and a waste off crab meat if you ask me; "braised beancurd combinations" which was beancurd drenched in a strange yellow coloured starchy sauce that offered a mild taste of chicken stock and topped with water chestnuts, potatoes and carrots; mango and sago pudding - I'm just not a fan of gloopy Chinese desserts. Overall I preferred the simpler dishes that wasn't overtly creative. The seafood is superbly fresh so I would recommend cooking styles that are lighter on the palate to really taste the sweet flesh of seafood. What I like about this place is that it doesn't have the usual crazy hectic-ness of a Chinese restaurant. Service is attentive and its a great place to bring our Muslim friends for fresh seafood.

For the month of Ramadan, Bangsar Seafood Garden have several promotional set menus to choose from, the price ranges from RM498++ to RM898++ for tables of 10. The great thing is they are throwing in 1kg of crab for free (valued at around RM60 plus). Promotion period is from Aug 20 to Sept 21. See below for details on the menu.

RM 498+: Appetizer, Shark’s Fin Soup, Chicken with Ginger, Spicy Fried Fish, Lychee Prawns, Signature Beancurd, ‘Kampung’ fried rice, Custard Buns, Dessert

RM 598+: Appetizer, Sharks Fin Soup, Chicken with Plum Sauce, Pomfret with Bean Sauce, Prawns with Sweet Corn Sauce, Steamed “Sang Gan”, Tom Yam Noodles, Banana with “Gula Melaka”, Dessert

RM 698+: Appetizer, Double boiled soup, Roast chicken, Red snapper, Otak Otak Fried Prawns, Braised Sea Cucumber, Oyster Fried Rice, Chinese Pastries, Dessert

RM 898+: Homemade appetizers, Sharks Fin Soup with Pumpkin, Boneless Duck, Curried Garoupa, Braised Seafood, Mango Prawns, Garlic Fried Rice, Banana & ‘Gula Melaka’, Dessert

Bangsar Seafood Garden Restaurant, 63 One Bangsar, Jalan Ara, Bangsar Baru 59100. Call 03 22822555 for reservations.

"Give me a hug"
"Nooo you give me a hug"
"You're so lovely"
"No, you da lovely one!"
*smooch*
"I love you"

Monday, August 10, 2009

About Cakes, Curry & A Salad for A Chiki Monkey

Its time for baking cakes again. I love trying out recipes. The triumphs, the failures, I love it all. I enjoy the learning curve and Hunky and colleagues get to reap the benefits of my spoils. When I do finally figure out a recipe I get incredibly excited (partly from the sugar high) and then I don't want to eat cake for at least a month after. As much as I love the Hummingbird Cake, I think that whole week of eating nothing but has put me off it for now. Who knew you could be traumatised by too much cake! Now I know why they call it Death By Chocolate.

Here is a picture of my attempt at black and white cake. The cake was too dense for the buttercream. The recipe actually called for a different frosting but it involved too many tools and measurements for someone like me. Easy peasy please. However, the buttercream is to die for! Super smooth and incredibly light and buttery. Gives the Red Velvet cake icing a run for its money. Today I tried another cake which uses caramel. I'm very inspired to replicate a Snickers bar in a cake form but less junky, more posh. So far so good. I don't know if anyone would eat it since most people I know don't like peanuts. The peanut has been treated unkindly. Tossed aside as its posher cousins take over the shelves. The humble peanut is relegated to stalls, wakes and red table-clothed restaurants. Peanut my friend, I will bring you to justice!

Lately I've been getting reacquainted with Asian cooking. I've almost forgotten how to stir fry vegetables and make simple curry. Its just so much easier to make a salad or pasta. I made some nam yue pai guat the other day and it turned out surprisingly well! I marinated the ribs with fermented bean paste, ginger, garlic, rice wine, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, ketchup (yes), dark soy, salt and honey and then simmered the ribs for about an hour before frying them. Mum would be so proud of me. Frying, with oil! It was tender and moist. Lovely! However don't think I will be cooking them often. I can't stand how oily the floor gets. Did I mention I like my floor squeaky? The other night I made a quick curry with the little ingredients that I had in my fridge. Chili padi, lemongrass, dried shrimp, shallots and garlic were blended coarsely. The paste was then fried in hot oil until I started choking from the fumes of the chili! Toss in the chicken pieces, couple of kaffir lime leaves and a little water. Finally salt, some leftover fine beans and freshly squeezed coconut milk. Doesn't look very pretty but it was tasty and light on the palate.

Moving on, I was honoured to be invited to Nigel and Allan's Pot Luck dinner for fellow flogger from afar, Msiagirl. I decided to bring pomelo salad after reading all about Rama V. Except that their version is a lot fancier with abalone. Mine was just humble chicken and shrimp. I don't know why it never occurred to me to make it before as it is incredibly easy and wonderfully refreshing given the hot and humid nights we're having lately. Ciki text me today with compliments about the salad. So here it is Ciki monkey! You will need juice and zest of 2 limes, 1 tablespoon palm sugar/brown sugar, 1 chili padi, 1 stalk lemongrass sliced very finely and 3 tablespoons of fish sauce. First muddle the juice, zest, sugar and lemongrass like you would a mojito. Ah, I sense I have piqued your interest! Then add the rest of the ingredients and adjust according to taste. This measurement is for 1/3 - 1/2 pomelo segments and enough for two monkeys! Don't forget the coriander and toasted peanuts. The nuts are a must!

Seasoned one chicken breast fillet with salt and pepper. Pan fry on non-stick skillet for about 3 minutes on each side. If you butterfly the breast it will cook much faster. Clean, shell and devein 6 medium prawns. Bring some water to gentle simmer with some salt added. Poach prawns for 30s to 1 min. Until it turns opaque. To assemble just throw everything together and toss in the dressing. Crushed peanuts right at the end. Voila. So easy right? Now, your turn to make for me!

Monday, August 03, 2009

Shen-zam!

Piping hot creamy oozy salted egg custard centre.
When my sister returned with 3o dresses after a shopping trip in Shenzen, I knew I had to visit this wondrous place at some point. Two weeks later, she had booked us on a trip. Yes, she was going again. So couple of days ago Rafs, Sista and I boarded our Air Asia flight into Shenzen. Sista had planned our trip for maximum shopping time- our hotel was directly across the shopping centre! Seriously. Railway Station Hotel looked pretty dodgy from the outside but it was surprisingly decent. The beds were extremely firm! And the sheets, very clean and crisp. The only thing I would have to gripe about is the manky carpet. Yuck. This was the first time in my life that I've ever used the paper slippers they provide in hotel rooms. The carpet was just screaming "FUNGAL INFECTION!!!". Anyway, we basically spent the following day in Lao Wu shopping centre. We had breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same restaurant. Sista had already checked out the eating places previously. She is surprisingly efficient when it comes to things she is passionate about. The food here is so much nicer than the stuff we had in Beijing, probably because we were in Guangzhou after all. Dim sum was lovely. Very fresh and refined. Even better than some of the places in Hong Kong.

"Chan Village Noodles" - culinary genius Chans! Well done!
We discovered a dish here. Like proper tourists that we were, we pointed at the table next to us and ordered. It was called "Chan village noodles" which consisted of hand cut rice noodles stir fried with pork ribs, garlic, soy sauce, chilli and spring onions. I'm sure there were other ingredients but I could only decipher those flavours. It was just so simple and deliciously comforting. The other thing Sista and I were surprised by were the superbly light and crisp crullers. Wow! I am not a fan in KL so I didn't even bother trying it here until Rafs kept insisting how wonderful they were and she was right. I especially love the steamed custard and salted egg bun. They were so good I nearly cried! I just could not get enough of it. I wouldn't say the food was dirt cheap. Around Crystal Jade pricing but so much better! I'm still not sure what the name of the restaurant was but in English it simply states "Laurel Group Restaurant". What a totally decadent trip! The only sight seeing we did was the view of lush green mountains from the window of the restaurant. I would definitely go again with my girlfriends. Great shopping, good food and cheap mani & pedis, its a great girlie weekend!

Click here for a review from another Laurel Group fan.

Clockwise from left to right: spinach dumplings; soft and fluffy mashed yam buns; Shanghai dumplings; my favourite salted egg yolk bun; steamed century egg layer cake;
steamed pork ribs