Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Weekend Herb Blogging – Curry Leaves

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This is my first time participating in the weekend herb blogging, and I could not find a better herb to blog about than curry leaves! This is because it is one of the herbs that I used freshly in variety of cooking, such as my Chicken Korma. These leaves are also readily available in Malaysia.

Curry leaves are featured mainly in Indian cuisines that are ubiquitous in Malaysia as the Indians are one of the three main ethnic groups in my multi-racial country. I have always been a lover of Indian cuisines, and had taken note of this unique and strong smelling herb. This special herb emits a special aroma which I believe, is hard to substitute with any other herbs. If one leaves it out in a recipe, the taste would not be quite right.

Once, our local KFC even had a version of Curry Fried Chicken, where curry leaves are mixed into the batter and then deep fried with the chicken. It was certainly special where the leaves are still clearly shown on the fried chicken, but now it is off the menu as somehow, Malaysians love the long-time hot and spicy version much better.

So in order to introduce this herb further, I had made vadai with it. Vadai is a type of fried gram that we in Malaysia like to snack on. It is extremely tasty with lots of flavours from the spices, a little spicy from the chillies and of course, the curry leaves. In this version that I modified from a cooking forum, KC, it includes masala in it. If masala powder is not available to you, you can make it yourself from a recipe here or any other recipes out there.

Eat it out of your hands with a good lime-chilly sauce and I guaranteed it finger licking good!

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Masala Vadai

During shaping, I had experience difficulties in holding them together because it was too wet. I supposed it is because I did not drain the soaked dhal grams properly enough, therefore I had added a bit more flour. After that I had chilled it in the fridge while I shaped the rest of the vadais and while I heat up the oil. It did help to hold the form a little.

The first batch of my vadais had gone to the trash because I had flipped it too early before it was thoroughly fried, therefore everything split. I also made a mistake by taking it out too fast, resulting in pieces of under-fried vadais. Therefore, I had timed and found that the best is to first let it fried for at least bout 5 minutes before flipping it over and then fried it for another 3 minutes to achieve the brown outlook with crunchy on the outside but soft on the inside texture. Besides, I found that one should be gentle while lowering the vadai into the oil, using a spoon and your fingers to sandwich the vadai while transferring would help.

1 cup Dhal Gram (grind until fine)
3/4 cup Dhal Gram
2 green chilies (remove seeds, chopped finely)
1 medium onions (chopped finely)
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp Masala powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
2 tbsp chopped curry leaves
6 tbsp plain flour

Soak both ground and whole dhal gram in separate bowls for 5 hours.
Drain both bowls of dhal gram and mixed into a large mixing bowl.
Add the rest of ingredients.

Mixed together evenly.
Wet your hands and shape them into patties.
Deep fry in hot wok of oil till golden brown (about 5 minutes on one side then turn and fry for about 3 more minutes)

Makes about 10-12 vadais

Saturday, November 26, 2005

IMBB/SHF: Cookie Swap

This month, Alberto’s IMBB and Jennifer’s SHF are having a joint event this month which is the virtual Cookie Swap! This is indeed a rare event for the union and coincidently it is my first time joining in both of these sensational events. Lucky me, as this would be an easier entry for me to handle both events in one!

After reading about this cookie swap, it just struck me to share to the world something traditional and truly Malaysian. I believe no other cookie fit into this description more than the famous Pineapple Tarts (or rather pineapple cookies).

These cookies are a must in most festive seasons in Malaysia especially Chinese New Year, which is a celebration of a new year according to the Chinese calendar. There are many ways shapes these Pineapple Tarts are made, either open tart shape (the one I made), roll up shape, ball shape, pineapple fruit shape or even most recent creative ones with cartoon icons. These cookies are usually served during CNY because in Chinese Hokkien dialect, the word pineapple (Wong Lai) has the same meaning as the ‘coming of prosperity’. Therefore they are considered auspicious cookies.

This had indeed been my all time favourite cookie during CNY celebration, and I can never keep my hands off them. I have heard various comments on how tough it is to make it but also how it these homemade ones can never ever be replace by those commercial ones. Therefore, I roll up my sleeves and brace the challenge for the world to share in this local joy of mine. Enjoy.

Pineapple Tarts

Making these cookies prove to be no easy feat as it needs extra attention and long hours at the kitchen. After making these, I now know why it cost a bomb to purchase it outside. I first made the fillings, where in the original recipe it calls for stirring continuously for 2 hours at the stove! I found it a crazy feat. So I decided to use my non-stick pan and just stir it occasionally while I prepare the dough. Do not worry if the pineapple fillings seem dry at first for it will sweat once you add in the sugar.

I love the kind of melt-in-the-mouth cookies to go with these but had failed to achieve it. This I suspect was due to over baking, where my first batch was slightly over browned in my naughty mini oven (the ever so famous) because I was busy making another batch with the cookie cutter and failed to monitor it. While another huge batch, I tried it with my gas oven (a huge oven of mine which is attached to the stove and uses the gas as heating element) which even after long time of baking, the cookies are still pale looking which ended up drying the pineapple filling instead. Next time, I should just stick to my mini oven and diligently watch over it. I found the baking time and heat a little too much from the recipe, therefore I changed it in the following recipe. I also find that, while cutting out your cookies, chill the remaining dough in the refrigerator for easy handling. Do not roll out the dough too thin else it would not stick to the cutter making it impossible to remove it nicely.

Pineapple filling:
2 med size pineapples, grated & drain off juices, retaining a bit of moisture
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
Sugar to taste (bout 100g)

1. Remove skin and black eyes from pineapple
2. Grate pineapple and squeeze out the juice.
3. Put pineapple into a non stick pan and cook.
4. Stir occasionally for about an hour.
5. Gradually, add sugar and cloves.
6. Cook for another 30 minutes or until it is dry and sticky.

Pastry Ingredients:
283g cookie flour (red rose flour)
28g sugar
184g butter
1 egg
Pinch of salt

1. Sieve flour, add salt and sugar and mix together
2. Rub butter into flour (use your fingers)
3. Beat egg lightly and add to the flour
4. Knead into a soft and sticky dough and leave it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
5. Roll pastry to 1/4 inch thickness and cut out with cookie cutter.
6. Fill pineapple filling onto the cookie.
7. Bake in oven at 190 C for 15 to 25 minutes till golden brown.

Makes bout 75 auspicious cookies (if you can resist popping it into your mouth)

Check out first half of result at Domestic Goddess
Don't miss out the second half over at Il Forno

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Hay Hay Its Donna Day - Localised Version

I read this event at the last minute over at boo’s, which is Hay Hay Its Donna Day, a One Off Meme. I guess I can forego the introduction of Donna Hay, since there are many who had introduced her. This event was inspired by Nic’s post, which I had since ages ago copied it into my to-do list until today. Since the event is alive and kicking all over the world, I might as well join in the fun and take off something from the ever-ongoing list of mine.

Though I do not know much bout Donna Hay but I did flipped through her magazines and books before in MPH. I did that a lot last time during my internship, at lunch break. I used to gather a bunch of food magazines and recipe books, grab a nice lawn chair; yes they have that in Midvalley MPH with a nice “garden-like” surrounding. All I know is that she uses straightforward and simple approach in her recipes, which many including me simple love it.

When I read the ingenious boo making her cupcake swirled with kaya, a local coconut egg jam, I swore a bulb just lighted up in my head. I had two kinds of kaya in my fridge which seems to be there for ages, which no one in this house seems to be interested in. How in the world did it get there in the first place? Well, at the period when everyone got sick in this house, including me, my housemates bought kaya and bread, a seemingly usual fare for the sick in common Malaysia household. I wonder where they get that idea, but nonetheless, my housemate followed the tradition but naturally, only eat a little, with the bad appetite when you’re sick. That is not the problem. The big problem is, they do not even eat it at all after they got well. I do not understand why myself. We love kaya but it just happens to stay stuck in my fridge forever.

Therefore I’m going to take it out of its misery and put it to some good use. I am going to make

Pandan Kaya Frosted Cupcakes

When I look at the recipe from Nic, I found that it was for 12 muffin tins. All I have was a 6 cup muffin tray that fits in snugly in my mini oven, which you all know quite well; therefore I halved everything, which I think, did not work out that well. I got the same problem again when I added in the flour and found it too dry, I wonder what am I doing wrong considering it a deja-vu, since I had the same problem with my Chocolate Chip ‘Orange’ Cookie. Anyway, I was compelled to use orange juice again but then it struck me that it would not go well with pandan kaya that I would be using. So I guess I would just use milk, which I have to brew from the milk powder; I ran out of fresh milk. Then when I scooped it into my muffin tray, I found I can only make up to 5. I wondered why again.

Next, when I scooped in the kaya, the lazy me had just grab the nearest possible thing in sight, my chopstick, to swirl it and I nearly messed it up. Anyhow, it ended up not bad looking. I guess it was not that attractive as the pandan kaya had a very light green colour which does not really stand out like how nutella would have. Nonetheless, it looks sweet. There are even some with swirl of sticky kaya remaining on the top! The cupcake is soft cake texture with a hint of pandan. Real nice. Thanks to Nic for a very versatile and adaptable recipe.

Pardon the conversions as I do not know how to halve 3/4 cup. Use your imagination.

70g butter, softened
1.5/4 cup white sugar 1 egg
1 egg white
1/4 tsp vanilla
3 tbsp milk
66 g ap flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp baking powder
Pandan kaya

Grease 5 holes of the muffin tray with butter.
Cream together butter and sugar until light.
Add in eggs one at a time, until fully incorporated. Add vanilla.
Preheat oven to 160C
In a bowl, mix in flour, salt and baking powder then stir it into batter and mix until uniform.
Add in milk and stir till incorporate.
Fill up the muffin tray bout 3/4 full each with batter.
Top each cake with 1 tsp kaya and swirl it in with a toothpick (if you’re wiser).
Bake for 20 minutes.
Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Make 5 sweet looking muffins.

Update: Get the round up over at winosandfoodies. Enjoy!

Friday, November 18, 2005

Curing An Insomnia

I went to bed at 5 am today, yes indeed; it’s sort of a normal time for this student-having-long-holidays to sleep. The problem, I mixed up my sleeping time so much, I had trouble falling asleep. Imagine that!

I rolled here and there and my mind kept running around with all sorts of food. Such gluttony you must say, but it is actually due to the fact that I’m hungry since my late dinner just now.

By 10 am, after turning here and there on the bed, read some books, then back to bed and continued turning here and there, then played a little ps2, and back to bed for you-know-what and then finally I gave up and came online.

I met J online much to my delight. He pitied me and came over to accompany me. Then he got hooked on the ps2 and it just struck me to do the most therapeutic thing to calm myself – baking!

I ran through my list of to-bake/cook, yes I have a long one which I kept on accumulating but had yet to try out. My eyes locked onto something that was loved by everyone of all time – chocolate chip cookie.

Before this, I had a taste of the most wonderful chocolate chip cookie ever which was baked by my Nanny’s daughter for her beloved son. It was so addictive, my Godsister and I could not keep our hands off it. It was that sinfully delicious. Then I had begged her for the recipe and she kindly emailed me once she got back to Jakarta. I baked it and found it was nowhere near hers but still not too bad a cookie. At that time, I haven’t mastered my 20 year old oven yet, and burnt quite a number of cookies.

After about 2 years of experimenting with my oven, a lot more recently due to my interest in food flaring up, I had finally understood that small little old oven of mine.

The first batch of cookies came out and after a slight cooling; I took over to J with a mug of brewed milk powder. He took an enormous bite and then gave a resounding YUM!

Chocolate Chip ‘Orange’ Cookie

I actually altered the original recipe a lot. First, I had reduced the amount of butter because I found that 115grams of butter is too hard to measure (lazy me), and thought it would have been healthier anyway. To make it even more good, I split the flour and added in whole wheat flour and increased the amount of brown sugar ratio. Besides, they recipe called for 1 large US egg, and all I have is the Malaysian medium sized ones so I added another half.

During the time I added the flour in, the dough got too dry, much to my worry, and I decided to add some kind of liquid. I just ran out of fresh milk and it struck me, orange juice! I cut half an orange and juice it in. The smell definitely mixes well with the dough and I just had to lick my fingers. You know a cookie would be coming out good if you love the dough itself. LOL.

Anyhow, after tasting my end product, I decided it’s too sweet, it must be the sweetness from the orange juice that I had neglected, so if you’re trying this recipe out, do reduce the sugar. Milk might have been a better option since I could not really taste the orange in the cookie anyway. But J does not agree with me bout the sweetness and he is chomping the third cookie now as I blog. Maybe I have a sweet tooth so it’s up to you readers to adjust to your taste. Remember to scoop it further apart, as for me, due to my mini oven, I had to place them quite near and they ended up sticking to each other but I managed to break them up easily. It does produce a much rugged and homemade looking kind of cookies though.

Do contain the urge to over-bake; as the cookie does feel kind of soft even after browning, but after cooling it will be crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Just my kind of favourite cookie!

1/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
100 grams unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/2-inch (1cm) pieces
1½ egg
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda (sodium bicarbonate)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
Juice of half an orange (1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

1 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped

Preheat to 150 C.
Cream the sugar and butter together until smooth. Then beat in the eggs and vanilla.
Stir together the flour, baking soda and salt and then mix them into the batter.
Squeeze in the half orange and stir to incorporate.
Mix in the chocolate chips and nuts.
Scoop 1 overflowing tablespoon of the cookie dough onto the baking tray, each about 2 inches apart ideally.
Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until brown. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Devour warm with a mug of milk.

Makes approximately 20 large (and I mean HUGE) cookies.

Mexican Girl

Saw this over at Funky Cookies and it had been circling around, over at Babe's and Foodcrazee's, so I decided to join in the fun. Here's my result:

You Are Mexican Food

Spicy yet dependable.
You pull punches, but people still love you.
What Kind of Food Are You?

Pretty true as I simply love Mexican food! I love it so much I had Mexican theme when I cooked for my 21st Birthday Bash. Might blog bout it someday.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Yet Another Cheesecake

I can’t seem to get over the chocolate and cheese love affair. Maybe I could have put cheese in a better limelight featuring it entirely in a cake. Therefore I took the opportunity of an occasion to surprise J.

J loves cheese. He adores cake. Cheesecake is then his greatest vice. I made this cheesecake especially for him, and had given him the liberty to do whatever he wants with it. He had chosen to devour it all by himself. Little did I know, I had given him his most powerful temptation. The poor boy managed to finish the whole cake himself in two days. Imagine that!

Lemon Sour cream Cheesecake

Not too bad a recipe but I had found that the amount of lemon is not distinct enough. Therefore I had increased the amount of lemon in the following recipe. My cake sank a lot after removing from the oven but luckily the top did not crack at all. This time the base is much better than the previous chocolate cheesecake but overall, we both found that we enjoyed the chocolate cheese affair more. Maybe we had indeed converted.

80g Marie Biscuits (crushed/grinded)50g Butter

Cheese Filling:
250g Cream cheese (1 block Philadelphia Cream Cheese)
25g Butter
½ lemon zest
1 tbsp lemon juice
2 egg yolks
20g sugar

30g corn flour
100g sour cream

1 egg white
30g sugar
1 tsp lemon juice

For the base, melt the butter and then mix into the crushed biscuits. Pressed it into an 8 inch round cake tin. Refrigerate till needed.

Beat the cream cheese and butter together. Then add in lemon zest and the lemon juice. Slowly beat in one egg yolk at a time. Then add in the sugar. Beat till creamy.

Stir in corn flour till well combined.
Stir in sour cream till well blended.

In a clean bowl, whip egg white, sugar and lemon juice till stiff peak. Stir into the cheese mixture and stir till well incorporated.

Pour onto the prepared base and bake in a water bath for 1 hour.
Let rest in the oven a few minutes after and then remove to let cool. Refrigerate for at least 5 hours before serving.

Serves 4-6 (In this case it served 1. LOL)

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Spicing Up My Life: Part 1

When I was young, I used to not able to stomach spicy food. In fact, as a kid, I’m pretty fussy bout food. I choose what to put into my mouth and what not. I also, terrible me, always refuse to finish my food. I would usually complaint I’m full, and then my nanny’s daughter (the one who usually feeds me), would urge me for three spoons more. The naughty I would keep count and at the third mouthful, I would declare “Finished!” she used to be amaze, at such tender age it is impossible to con me. Although, I could not eat much but the miracle thing is, I’m still as chubby and red as ever with a huge rounded tummy. My dad used to joke there must be air inside there.

Somehow, as I grew up, I learnt to stomach more and more spicy food. By the time I shifted over to live independently in KL, I even developed a liking towards spicy food. In fact thinking of spicy food makes me salivate. I love Indian curries, I love Malay rendang and sambal, and of course all the spicy Chinese cuisines. I also seek for various spicy foods from all over other than Malaysia.

Therefore, nowadays, I have been seeking out to cook something spicy at home. Had always been a dream of mine, thinking of what I could conjure up with spices and chilies available locally. I always crave for the long-gone authentic home cooked Indian food that I get to eat during Deepavali in my friends’ house.

Thanks to Kitchen Capers, I had been exposed to both authentic Singaporean and Malaysian food and its simplicity in the making. There were many spicy Asian dishes featured there and it opened up so many possibilities for me to spice up my life!

Chicken Korma

This version of curry is not so spicy but nonetheless a real treat to the taste buds. You can get the forum version here but I have added curry leaves for kick and omitted some ingredients I did not have in hands. This is a real tasty treat and how I wish I could have had it with my chapatti.

6 pcs chicken upper thigh (chopped into 2 sections)
2 onions (diced)
50 g butter
120g plain yoghurt
150 ml UHT milk
10 pcs cardamom seeds
Bunch of curry leaves
Salt and black pepper to taste


2 tbsp Coriander seeds
1 tbsp Cumin seeds

1. Pound the spices together with mortar and pestle (You can also use a grinder)
2. Heat up wok with butter and add onion to sauté till soft and slightly browned
3. Add cardamom seeds and curry leaves to fry till fragrant
4. Add spice mix and stir fry to mix evenly
5. Add chicken and yoghurt
6. Stir to mix and then add the milk
7. Cover the wok and simmer to cook over medium heat for 30 minutes

Serves 4-6 people

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Fast Food Malaysian Style

In Malaysia, one of the most common habits among youths is staying up late at night and then goes out seeking for food in the middle of the night. Luckily here, we can find food 24 hours a day.

When we mention supper or commonly known as “yum cha”, the first thing to struck our mind is mamak! Mamak is an Indian-Muslim community in Malaysia who are famous for its fast and good food, available 24 hours a day. It’s in a way our own version of fast food. Mamak is like grown mushrooms after the rain in Malaysia. You can simply find one nearby whenever you need it. There are all sorts of choices ranging from breads to noodles to soups to rice with various spicy dishes. Definitely a place for food indulgence.

When I first came up to KL to stay, I lived in Wangsa Maju. Many foodies should know that it’s a heaven for food. Right smacked in front of my condominium is the infamous mamak, BRJ. There they serve truly delicious and sinful Nasi Lemak. More on that next time if I ever have the chance to go back for my true Nasi Lemak. But the sad thing is they don’t serve one of my favourite Indian cuisines, which is chapatti. Chapatti is an Indian flatbread made from atta flour(South Asian whole grain durum wheat flour).

Everytime I go to mamak, if I’m hungry (I never have this habit anymore to eat late at night), I would order chapatti. It is one of my favorite healthier options for a midnight snack. Chapatti is usually served with dhal, another favourite curry accompaniment of mine.

But now, lucky me, I have a nearby mamak which serves chapatti with thick and rich dhal. I would keep on ordering refill for the dhal. Nowadays, the “yum cha” session had toned down considerably, and even if we do go out, I seldom eat. Therefore, it has been quite some time since I have my chapatti fix. The only solution I can think of is to make my own!

Chickpea Chapatti

I came across this recipe from Zu's Blog, to make simple and easy chapatti. The part I find most troublesome is the rolling out. I had quite a trouble because it kept on sticking to the table and to my rolling pin. Lessons I learn is, to use more flours to knead it after resting and then use hand to first flatten it. Our hands are the best tool to feel the right texture needed for the bread. After that, use the rolling pin to flatten it further. Each time turning it 90 degrees and flatten again, to achieve a better rounded shape. Careful not to roll to thin or you’ll end up with crispy biscuit like bread instead.

One more thing is, I had replaced recipes ½ cup plain flour to make it all atta flour, and regretted it. The chapatti was slightly on the tough texture, and later I learnt that the plain flour is to make it softer. Next time I would stick to the right flour ratio. To coarsely grind the spices, I had used my good ol’ pestle and mortar, courtesy from my dear nanny.

1 1/2 cups atta flour
1/2 cup plain flour
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp olive oil)
1 cup warm water
1 cup chickpea, mashed (1/2 can)
1/2 tbsp coriander seeds, coarsely grind
1/2 tbsp cumin seeds, coarsely grind

1. Mix the flours and salt together
2. Add oil and water slowly into the flours and knead till it forms into dough
3. Add mashed chickpea, coriander and cumin and mix well
4. Rest the dough covered with cling wrap for 1-2hrs
5. Shape the dough into palm size and roll it out thin
6. Place rolled dough onto non-stick pan and cook till bubble forms. Turn over and cook.

Makes 8-10 chapattis.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Going Oriental to Soothe Cravings

Mum is up in KL for the Deeparaya holidays. This would only mean, shopping! Whee!

Before I shifted over, we (my mum, sis and I), used to come up every year without fail to shop for Chinese New Year attires. Now, with my sis and me living here now, my mum would come up every year without fail to continue our shopping ritual.

This time, my Pho Pho (grandmother), came along to visit my aunt. She, as an 80++ old lady can still manage to shop with us whole day! Although she does sit at every shop, but she is definitely one super iron lady! (Would tell more about her when I have the chance)

Anyway, since decision on where to have lunch naturally lies in my hands, for I am supposedly the “host” in One Utama, which I live a stone’s throw away. Since this time Pho Pho would be eating, I decided we should go oriental to suit her. Thus, I brought them to Oriental Cravings in the mission to soothe our cravings for familiar food.

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There I ordered Hainanese Tea, a mixture of tea, coffee, milo and milk. Wanted to try it out because of the special combination, and boy, was it yummy. Slightly more thick on coffee but to my expectation since coffee emits strong aroma. Nevertheless, its a real interesting concoction to try out.

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Then my mum and Pho Pho ordered Claypot Loh See Fun, and she wanted the soupy version. Of course they do not have it, despite us telling her so. Therefore the waitress suggested adding egg to make it smoother and she will ask them to make a wetter version. This turn out to be a bad idea, the loh see fun was soggy and wet, with lack on taste. I have tasted much better claypot loh see fun out at the hawkers.

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Next I had Rice Wine Chicken Mee Sua, which is chicken cooked in homemade rice wine, served with omelette and mee sua. You can also opt for the rice version instead. This dish is a surprise to taste, with a real kick of rice wine. If you’re not into wine, you’re not gonna like it. It was real good at first but by the end of the meal, I could not lap up the soup anymore. But my Pho Pho seems to love it a lot, where she took my entire bowl and drink it like its wine.

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Lastly, my cousin ordered Fried Kway Teow which is fried just the way it should be for KL style, with prawns, squids and pork slices. Definitely up to standard and would not be a let down. The only problem here would be the slow service and slow serving for my mee sua and the fried kway teow. Might be peak lunch hour but its just on ordinary working days.

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Therefore if you happen to be at One Utama and are craving for some hawker style food, head over for an oriental treat with style.

Oriental Cravings,
359 Ground Floor ,
One Utama Shopping Centre (new wing),
Bandar Utama,
47800 PJ

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