Monday, November 27, 2006

Restoran Ketam Steamboat Seafood

Whoops.. I am soo very sorry. I have such serious deadlines that I could not even spare some time during meals to write about my favourite topic. But alas.. a breather. And what would I like to share? Steamboat!
I am sure you've seen it somewhere (ie Hong Kong triad gang movie? No?). But the way people of different culture and family upbringing would result in differring methods of enjoying this meal. I have seen "gwei lou" (caucasions lah*) throwing everything into the boiling soup including noodles, eggs and all. Er... My sister suggest you eat instant noodles better than wasting the wonders of steamboat. I have also seen some families that throw in the noodles first, and eat the meat and veges later (kinda spoils the soup, don't you think?). Anyway, I am not teaching you how to eat, just sharing my thoughts about how people eat. But let's talk about Restoran Ketam Steamboat Seafood.

Malay-English Translation
Restoran - Restaurant
Ketam - Crab

Location: Bukit Menjalara, Kepong, Selangor
Food rating: Good!

Now, first of all.. Do not be mistaken that you boil crab in the steamboat. You can do that, but it is very difficult to eat it while it is piping hot from the pot. Ketam here refers to a place called Pulau Ketam, which is an island well known for its fishing village and seeaaaffooooddd.
That aside, steamboat alone cannot attract customers. You will need sauce. Specifically, chilli sauce. Good chilli sauce enhance the steamboat experience. Close your eyes and try imagine this. You are at a very cold place. Your hands and body are cold. Then there is this hot pot with soup and all sorts of vege and meat. You pick one up (probably a thin slice of beef that is just cooked perfectly) and you dip it into the creamy aromatic sauce and slurp them all in, meat and sauce and let the aroma weld up in your mouth. Oh heaven!
Anyway, back to this steamboat thingy, the concept is quite similar to fondue. But instead of thick sauce like chocolate or cheese, we have clear soup as base. And in Hong Kong it is usually clear soup and Taiwan/China you may have "ma la" which literally means numbing spicy. We have everything here in Malaysia. We have clear soup, herbal soup, tom yum (thai spicy soup), "ma la", and evern creamy satay sauce (which they call "celup"). This restoran ketam offers you clear or tom yum soup, you can have both (half soup and half tom yum separated like the photo above.
If you have good chilli sauce like this shop does is usually good enough, but if you coupled that with good soup, then the steamboat will be superb. Unfortunately it is kinda difficult to find such great combination. Some shop do not even have that both. For this Restoran Ketam, the sauce is really fragrant and spicy. Though the soup is just ok, the sauce help make up the rest.
The veges and meats given is also fresh, but I still prefer more fresh meats than process emats like this restaurant does. But overall it is fairly good ler...

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Red Hot Curry Noodles - Kedai Makan Chuan Fatt

Spicy! Some say a must in their meals, some say never in their lifetime and some say love it but can't live with it. It can either be a love or hate relationship, or it can be love+hate relationship. I am featuring one famous dish that can be spicy, mildly spicy or extremly spicy - curry mee/noodles!
Curry was introduced by Indians meaning spiced gravy. But I remember reading somewhere that the English claimed the word "curry" came from them. ("Yeah sure, in actual fact, the pyramids were built by the English too. Don't you know that? You poor soul, so lost!") Well, whatever it is, I thank the inventor of curries, because without them, we won't be able to experience such complicated relationship other than "love" :P
Anyway, curry mee in Malaysia has so many different variation that I can't seem to determine which is the best. They are all my favourites! But of course, I think best curry mee is from Ipoh. Amongst the different variation of curry mee (we have coconut milk curry with chicken and "Tau Hu Pok" - KL style; or curry minus the milk with "Char Siew", "Siew Yok" and prawns - one of Ipoh style, or dry curry with "Char Siew" & chicken - two of Ipoh style; or coconut milk curry with prawns, "sotong", "kerang" and "Huik" - Penang style, etc etc etc) this is one that I suggest you don't miss if you like spicy and fried chicken.

Malay-English Translation
Sotong - Squid (yellowish type, not calamari)
Kerang - Cockles
Kedai - Shop
Makan - Eat/Eatery

Cantonese-English Translation
Tau Fu Pok - Fried beancurd with hollow fillings (Hokkien called it Tau Hu Pok)
Char Siew - sweet bbq pork (literally forked/skewered burn/bbq)
Siew Yok - crispy skinned bbq pork (literally burn/bbq meat)

Hokkien-English Translation
Huik - Blood hardened to jelly like (not my cup of blood, if u know what I mean)

Location : Pasir Puteh, Ipoh, Perak.
Food rating : Nyum X 2!

This shop is another evolution of Hainanese coffee shop in Ipoh. They have been operating this curry mee joint since the past 3 generations (at least), and we are the 2nd generation still loyally going back for more everytime we are in Ipoh. What do they offer? Curry mee (the coconut milk type, but more spicy than usual) whether in soup or dry (mix of dark & light soy sauce and little bit of curry), with accompaniments of fragrantly fried chicken/pork. In actual fact, they also have sourish dry curry chicken as accompaniments, but I still like the fried chicken the best.

This round, I ordered dry curry "Lou Shee Fun" (short-translucent rice noodles). The best part about this is that, even the dry curry is spicy and fragrant. It is not like those you find in other places. The noodles itself is nothing special. For this shop, it is simply the curry. They belong to thick coconut milk curry (but spicier version).
And another thing, I find soaking the fried chicken with the curry gravy is...heavenly! Try it.

Note: Nyum Nyum is just my way of saying tasty

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Restoran Ful Lai [Dim Sum Shop]

Hello, hello! Like the new look? It is not something original though, I have yet to learn how to create my own web page, so for the time being, hope this new look will suffice.

Ahh.. Let's talk about Dim Sum today. Dim Sum (點心 pinyin dĭan xīn - literally, "touch the heart", "dotted heart", or "to order to one's heart's content") are little snacks for chinese. They are usually served in delicate portion where you can pop the whole piece of snack at one shot. Each dish usually serve 3-4 pieces. For greedy people like me, I usually ordered till my table is full

Many many sources have revealed that Dim Sum evolved from teahouses' snacks that were used to position along the Silk Road. Initially only tea and "Pau" or "Man Thou" (both meant steamed bun) were served to business travellers that stopped by for rest, but as economical and cultural borders dissolved, Dim Sum transcended all boundaries and mushroomed all over the world today. Dim Sum nowadays has sooo... many types that if I were to list down all of them, then this blog will never be published (which is one of the reason that this blog is late, would you believe me? hehe..). But as I review Dim Sum in Malaysia, I will reveal to you as much variety as I could taste on. Let's start with the basics this round.

Location: Bukit Menjalara, Kepong, KL
Food rating : Nyum nyum (good)

The few basics that all Dim Sum shops should have is "Char Siew Pau", "Lo Mai Kai", "Chee Cheong Fun", "Har Gau", "Siew Mai" and "Yu Dan". Ok ok, no worries, the Cantonese-English translation is right below:
Char Siew Pau - Steamed bun with BBQ pork filling
Lo Mai Gai - Steamed glutinous rice with chicken
Chee Cheong Fun - Steamed rice noodles with a choice of prawn or char siew filling
Har Gau - Steamed prawn wrapped in translucent rice-flour skin
Siew Mai - Steamed pork+prawn wrapped in wan ton skin
Yu Dan - Steamed fishball

Wherever I go, I never missed any of these. But it is not easy to find a good Dim Sum restaurant that could serve all the above as evenly tasty. They are either good at Char Siew Pau (like the one in Jalan Ipoh) or some other specific menu. So far, this is the only shop I think offers all treats as good as one another.
I never like Char Siew Pau with thick skin and little filling, as they are too dry and tend to get stuck at my throat. This shop offers balanced skin and filling, and the BBQ pork is very fragrant with 5 spice powder, that is not over-powering.

A lot of Lo Mai Gai in KL is mass-produced, hence they tend to lose freshness when consumed. I believe this shop prepares its own Lo Mai Gai because you can tell if it is fresh, as the glutinous rice is not too soft or too sticky. And again, the spices in this dish is not over-powering with Shao Xing wine.

Har Gau & Siew Mai in KL is really miserable until I found this shop. The usual fair are mostly stuffed with pork (cheaper) or small prawns (again, cheaper), whereas this shop served them in larger prawns that are fairly fresh. Another reason why most shops replace prawns with pork is because you can easily tell a prawn's Dim Sum is fresh or not. I applaud this shop for its chivalrous attempt. (It sounded serious, right? But it is not easy to do what they do.)

The Chee Cheong Fun is ok. Though the rice noodles are a bit too soft, the filling is generous. And the Yu Dan is not too soft or too bouncy (which might mean too much Salicyclic Acid that is harmful to human) or smell too fishy (which might mean not fresh or low quality fish used).
So if you are like me, longing to find some good Dim Sum in KL, this place is recommendable.

By the way, Dim Sum always goes with Chinese Tea. It helps to relief our stomach after we torture it with plates after plates of Dim Sum. And if you sometimes wonder why the elders tend to knock on the table when you pour them a cup of tea, it is not because they are ordering you to pour the tea, but they are thanking you in casual manner. This goes back to Qing Dynasty in the olden China where Qian Long (a Chinese Emperor) went for a secret excursion. This is not usual in the olden days as emperors do not leave their palace. The emperor poured tea for his subordinates (which was an honour) and the subordinates could not kneel down to express their gratitude to the emperor (it is a secret journey, remember?). So what the subordinates did was to bend both the 2nd and third finger and knock on the table to signify their gratitude to the emperor. It became a culture to thank your host when they pour the tea for you until today.
Right... I shall spice things up a bit in the next blog. See you then!

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Deepavali Vartegal & Selamat Hari Raya!

This is a special post tribute to all Hindus : "Deepavali Vartegal" and all Muslims "Selamat Hari Raya".

On 21 Oct 2006, all Hindus celebrated the festival of lights. It is a celebration to commerate Lord Rama's homecoming after defeating the demon Ravana, Lord Krishna's triumph over the demon Narakasura, and moany other versions of the origin of Deepavali. All in all, it is simply a celebration to commemorate renewal of life! I would like to show you photos of kolam (a decorative art form created on the floor using coloured rice powder), lighted oil lamps in clay dish, offering plate to ancestors and gods/goddesses, and the food - muruku, ommapadi, chippi, sweet meats, rice puddings and many many more. Unfortunately, I was not able to attend my friend's open house because I had to travel doen to Ipoh to attend my boyfriend's sister's wedding. Sorry Suja, and happy deepavali. Hopefully next year...

On 24 October 2006, Muslims also celebrated a renewal. Prior to the Hari Raya Aidilfitri, all Muslims have to observe a full month of fasting. They will begin fasting from around 5am and break fast around 7pm (from sunrise to senset). During this period, no food or drinks are allowed and it is the time that Muslims are supposed to reflect and abstain from desire and urges. It is a time to forgive and forget and star anew again. Similarly, I wished I could reveal to you photos of decorative bulan sabit (crescent moon), lighted lampu pelita (canned oil lamp), visits to the love ones' graves, and food again - ketupat (pressed rice in coconut leaves), lemang (glutinous rice in bamboo), dodol and much more. Again, now that I am back to Kuala lumpur, most of my friends are back to their hometown to celebrate - balik kampung. Probably I'll go visit open house put up by our ministers. What? They are not in KL too? Sigh...

Because Malaysians celebrate all festivals, I wish all Malaysian happy holidays and please drive carefully (if you don't know what I mean. check this out - Have a safe and happy holiday!

p/s: Those images I got it from yahoo. I like story with pictures :)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Imbi's morning wet market

Hainanese Breakfast
Have you had Hainanese breakfast before? Do you know what is a Hainanese breakfast? Those days when migrants from China came over to Malaysia, every different clan has a specific trade of their own. Hainanese? One of their best trade is kopitiam (literally translated to coffee shop, or you can call it cafe).

Why do you call it coffee shop? Well they are really good in preparing a good old cup of fragrant coffee. The trademark is a green flower motived cup for a thick hot coffee.

But what makes up a Hainanese breakfast is... (1) a cup of coffee, (2) half boiled eggs, and (3) toast with butter and kaya (sweet-brownish coconut and egg jam). But of course, as times passed, we get slightly improved version of bun instead of toast, and iced coffee instead of hot coffee. One of the famous Hainanese breakfast in Kuala Lumpur is a stall set up within the Imbi's morning wet market.

Location : Imbi, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Food rating : Good-lah*

If you like half boiled eggs, you'll know that the perfect half boiled eggs are those that when you crack the eggs and pour the contents out, no eggs will stick to the inside of the shells. This is what you will find from the stall in there. The eggs came out just right!

Hainanese coffee here are local coffee with milk, not the normal instant coffee you get from the likes of Nescafe or Indocafe. These are grounded coffee beans that have been fried with caramel. In fact, most local coffees gone through similar treatments. But some brands have their secret process that makes them more fragrant than the others. Same as the coffee here, they are fragrant hot or cold.

The buns here are generously spread with kaya and butter. The buns are not too hard or soft. They are toasted to golden brown that is easily crunched on the outer layer but still soft and chewy on the inner substance. I especially like the block of butter that is sandwiched with the kaya. You can eat it straight away to experience the butter's creamy taste or you can leave it to melt and soaked the inner portion of the buns with its buttery aroma.

I guess the photos below tells better story than I do...

Note:* "lah" is a suffix used by Malaysian meant to add emphasis to a word/phrase.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Kedai Makanan & Minuman Teluk Pulai (Pottery) Bak Kut Teh

Bak Kut Teh is a typical Chinese Malaysian food. You can only find this in Malaysia. It is a rice dish usually served with pork, mushrooms, iceberg cabbage and loads of chinese herbs and spices. If you ask me, I believe Bak Kut Teh is not complete without "Ewe Jar Koay" - fried Chinese Crullers, or "Tau Hu Pok" - fried tofu. The taste of those 2 soaked in Bak Kut Teh's soup is simply heaven!
Who invented it? According to the most plausible version of the story, Bak Kut Teh was invented by a gentleman from Quanzhou of the Fujian province in China. The secret recipe was passed to a friend who later went to Klang and became the first person to commercialise and sell Bak Kut Teh. The dish went on to become a famous dish and was copied and improved many times over. So according to this version the Hokkiens were the inventors of the dish. The Teochews came later and the main visual difference between the Hokkien and Teochew version of Bak Kut Teh is that the Hokkiens use dark soy sauce and thus the soup base is characteristically darker in colour. It is up to the individual's taste buds which one tastes better.
You may find many shops in Klang selling "original" Bak Kut Teh. Don't ask me which is the most famous or original amongst them. Heck I am still sampling.
So this is my sample no 1: Kedai Makanan & Minuman Teluk Pulai (Pottery) Bak Kut Teh

Malay-English Translation
Kedai - Shop
Makanan - Food
Minuman - Drinks
Teluk Pulai - Pulai Gulf

Hokkien-English Translation
Bak Kut - Ribs
Teh - Tea

Location : Klang, Selangor, Malaysia
Food rating : OK-lah*!


The shop has all the typical Hokkien Bak Kut Teh ingredients - dark soy sauce, dark soup, etc. Unfortunately, the shop was out of crullers that day :(
Anyway, the soup was ok. Not very fragrant but not tasteless either. Meat was ok. Not too hard and not too fatty/lean. The enoki mushrooms were different. They are fatter than the usual enoki mushrooms that you can buy in the market. The "fu chuk" - beancurd skin, that was added into the soup was ok too. Not too hard/soft and not tasteless, but not very fragrant either.
See... Now you know why I rate it as "OK-lah". Because it is simply ok-lah.
I will continue to try all the remaining shops in Klang, but not consecutively. Hell no! FYI Bak Kut Teh's herbs are very heaty
(Asian's term for food that induce higher metabolism eg chilli).
Let's have some variety, ya?
By the way, sorry for the late posting (though I promised you 16 October 2006). Oh come on! Haven't you heard of Malaysian time? Due to our extremely strong ability to procastinate, Malaysian time tend to stretch for a long long long long long period. If they say dinner starts at 7pm, I suggest you have some food coz' it is really gonna start at 9pm. If you've been to Malaysian dinner, you'll know :). OK, enough about that, so I'll see you again next week? Till then, stay cool!

Note: * "lah" is a suffix used by Malaysian meant to add emphasis to a word/phrase.

Monday, October 09, 2006

The Maiden Voyage!

Ok, so this is it. What do I mean: "forget about what foreignors have to say about Asia/Malaysia and look at our own backyards." ?
Well, what I mean was we always care about what other people think about us, shouldn't it be the time that we, Asian, tell the world what Asia means to us? What do we think about Asia (and in my case, it has got a lot to do with food).
Besides the demographic details of what Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia is today. I'd love to share with you our roots, traditions (although we being the 2nd to 3rd generation of Malaysian kinda loss the original traditions brought down by our forefathers from either China, India, and other parts of Asia), attire, thoughts, developments and of course FOOD! We may not be the pure breed from our ancestors, but what we have been mixed and matched and turned out to be what we are today - Everything Asian!
What are we gonna do? Well for a start, you will have to bare with me to introduce you Asian food in Malaysia on a weekly basis. Until I've saved enough for an oversea trip, you have to make do with local Malaysian Asian food and places. Deal? Deal!
Then I'll see you next Monday 16 October 2006 for my first feature of Malaysian Asian food...