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

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Menu for Hope V

Menu for hope is once again back! What is it, you ask? Well, quoting from Chez Pim:
Menu for Hope is an annual fundraising campaign hosted by me and a revolving group of food bloggers around the world. Five years ago, the devastating tsunami in Southeast Asia inspired me to find a way to help, and the very first Menu for Hope was born. The campaign has since become a yearly affair, raising funds to support worthy causes worldwide. In 2007, Menu for Hope raised nearly $100K to help the UN World Food Programme feed the hungry.

Each December, food bloggers from all over the world join the campaign by offering a delectable array of food-related prizes for the Menu for Hope raffle. Anyone – and that means you too - can buy raffle tickets to bid on these prizes. For every $10 donated, you earn one virtual raffle ticket to bid on a prize of their choice. At the end of the two-week campaign, the raffle tickets are drawn and the results announced on Chez Pim.
This year Menu for Hope V will be from 15th December to 24th December 2008, so please do not miss this opportunity to donate and maybe get a prize for that. We have our very own dear Malaysian food blogger Babe in the City KL, which did her pledge of prize here! Head on to her site to see if the prize interest you or you can choose from the master list of great prizes at here.

Please join all of us to help
UN World Food Programme feed the hungry!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Another Yummy Goodness

Did I ever mention before my love for Jamie Oliver? I have not? Psst, don’t tell J, yes I heart Jamie Oliver like how many other food bloggers as well. Who wouldn’t? He is charming, funny, kitchen savvy and with a big heart to boot. He was after all the man behind the Fifteen restaurant and the campaign against processed food in UK. But I fell in love with him way before that of course; he had me at Naked Chef. Seriously, he did. I have watched his series from television old and new diligently, ask Y she would know (she even used to ask me why and when I am going to make those wonderful things that Jamie made for her). Then later I downloaded some of his series out of desperation and the latest ones had me watching from youtube! I had even contemplated to join Fifteen before, I even wrote in and asked but too bad, the rule is that you must be a citizen of UK to be eligible. I was devastated thereafter, alright I am a bit whee overdramatic here, but I was pretty disappointed though. That is how much I love him.

Anyway, remember my previous post on my advocate on healthy breakfast? Alright, you know where I am heading here, oh-oh Granola Version 2.0. Well nearly, but no. You see, I did had my heart set to improve my version 1.0 to maybe 1.1 or so, yes I have a bit of geek streak in me, after all I work in an IT industry (though I wished it was food industry hah), because I have two new ingredients at hand that would work brilliantly in my granola. My mum went to Hatyai a couple of weeks ago and asked me do I want some cashew nuts, my eyes glimmered instantly, oh yes I do, please bring me some, raw please. My mum was confused when I said I wanted raw, she thought I wanted non flavoured roasted kind, I had to explain, no I want raw, whitish and uncooked kind, she thought I was mad. But luckily I got the message across and she lugged back that packet of gem for me. She also asked if there is anything else that I would want, oh yes I do, dried fruits please, any dried fruits in season will do when she asked and she brought back dried mangoes for along with her supposedly dried bananas which turn out to be banana chips (please pardon my mum, she is not really culinary incline) but that aside, I am so set to make my granola tropical! But alas, I did not manage because there were some technical difficulties (which were just a posh way to say I had a problem) in getting access to my oven, thus the plan deferred. Then I remembered that there was something called muesli, a non-bake sister of granola. Ah-hah! Making muesli would also be like killing two birds with one stone as a faithful reader commented at not being able to make my granola for not having an oven, so no more excuses for ya!

I did some search for the recipe of muesli and voila, I found it at, yes you guess it, Jamie Oliver’s site! This recipe is actually Jamie’s version of Bircher muesli which he named Pukkolla, oh yes he is cute that way, which includes with mixing your own muesli and then soaking it and adding in good stuffs before eating. Just head on to the forum to get his original recipe or you can see my version below. I made my version of Jamie’s Pukkolla which was his version of Bircher muesli. Oh no is this the geek side of me or the crazy side? Anyway, version to version, mine came out so good I am happy with it! I am sticking to the name Pukkolla as it is kind of cool (hope Jamie don't mine), with my running versions yet again! Ah, so geek.

Pukkolla My Version 1.0

Jamie as always advocating ease and rustic kind of cooking, his recipe was in handfuls, just grab and mix kind. I wanted to do that just to feel rustic ha-ha, but the inner female side of me emerged and I just had to measure my things, but don’t worry as I go roughly by cups and not by weight, else you can also convert all the cups to handfuls if you want to be rustic like Jamie. I also had kind of halved Jamie’s recipe as I really do not know what to do if with so much muesli at one time where I am the only one eating it, I also do not want to open my new pack of rolled oats just yet, so feel free to double it. Since I did not have bran on hand, and had the goodness of freshly ground flaxseed with me, I substituted them. Also in Jamie's show, he smashed his nuts in a tea towel, leaving bits of different sizes, which give this mixture an extra depth!

4 cups organic rolled oats
1 cup ground flaxseed
1/2 cup chopped dried mango
1/2 cup sultanas/raisins
1/2 cup crushed almonds
1/2 cup crushed cashew nuts

Dump everything into a very large bowl, use your hand (so we are getting rustic here anyway) and mix everything well together.
Pour into an airtight container and store till when needed

The night before your breakfast:
Scoop half cup of your muesli mix into a bowl or container
Pour in about half cup of yogurt, or just enough to cover
Let soak overnight in the refrigerator

After a good night sleep, on next day for breakfast:
Remove bowl or container from the refrigerator
If you found it too thick, which I did, loosen with another roughly quarter cup of milk
Tuck in and enjoy

After that give yourself a pat on the head for having a wholesome breakfast and for listening to Tham Jiak!

Edited on 18th December 2008

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Breakfast Version 1.0

This month had been eventful; I had a week long trip in Japan and took so many pictures I have yet to really process it. Also, catching up on work after a long break is definitely no easy feat, it took me half a day just to clear my inbox! Somehow though, I manage to finally kick start my baking adventures this weekend. It was not easy as everything is not at hand and I have to dig it out, clean it and start using it. But oh boy, was it worth it.

Since I have started into a healthy regime of sort, I have been looking out for interesting healthy food options. Contrary to the popular believe, I actually found that food which is good for you do taste good as well. Just like the Lui Cha that I mentioned before, all goodness pack into a bowl with plethora of taste and textures, I found another love in muesli.

Muesli stirred into plain fresh yogurt is an absolute heaven to start your day with. This was what I had frequently at work for breakfast, and as expected, I had mixed responses from fellow colleagues. Some do not even recognize what I am having, some cheered me for my good healthy choice while some salute me for being able to stomach it. Well I do agree that muesli is not exactly a normal breakfast fare for Malaysians, where we consume in abundance breakfasts like Nasi Lemak, Roti Canai, roti bakar (toast bread) with eggs, Wan Tan Mee (dried soy sauce noodles) and so on. With such indulging choices for breakfasts here, it is no wondered nobody ventured out further than that.

Of course we also do consume cereals and fresh milk at home apart from the usual bread with kaya, thanks to the heavy advertising by the giants bout 10 years ago but the idea of muesli and yogurt is still lost to many. For me, I thank the wonderful world of food blogging for introducing me to this seriously good, taste and health wise, food. It was also superbly convenient to have whenever you need a fulfilling breakfast or a quick healthy snack.

Ever since I have been consuming packaged muesli, I have been in awe of those who make their own mueslis or granolas. Ok wait, what is the difference between them? I am quite confused at first but from a quick read in Wiki here and here, I conclude that muesli are simply mixed grains, nuts and fruits while granola is a baked version of them. Correct me if I am wrong here, but anyhow, they both serves pretty much the same to me, crunchy goodness of oats, nuts and fruits all in one.

The batch of granola I made was crunchy and fragrant; as expected. Just like many bloggers have mentioned, after you make your own, you find that it is so easy and tasted so good, why would one ever go back to buy packaged one? So if you are one like me who found love in muesli or granola, do try to make one at home or if you are one who have yet to understand its delicious goodness, try it and be converted!

Granola (Version 1.0)

I had used recipes from various bloggers as guidelines to come up with my own version. Thanks to my limited supplies, I was just planning to try out so I did not splurge much on fruits and nut, I made a really simple version of granola. You would notice that halfway through I stirred in ground flaxseed, this is because I totally forgot about until the granola had started baking in the oven, and I had to ground my whole flaxseed then before I can use it. This is my currently working version where I would continue to refine and innovate to come out with an ultimate granola!

1 ½ cups rolled oats
½ cup raisins
½ cup chopped almond
3 tbsp honey
1 tbsp neutral oil
2 tbsp water
½ cup ground flaxseed

Mix all the dry ingredients together – oats, raisins and chopped almond.
Pour the dry ingredients onto prepared parchment paper on a tray.
Mix the honey, water and oil and then slowly stir into the mixture bit by bit.
Mix very well until everything is a bit moist and clumps together a bit.
Roast in the oven at 200°C for 30 minutes. Stir it about every ten minutes.
Halfway through, stir in ½ cup of ground flaxseed for good measure!
When done, take it out and let completely cool before storing in airtight container.

Tip: serve ½ cup of granola stir into 1 cup of yogurt or milk or soy milk of your choice.

Update: Today while munching on my granola I found that some of my raisins were actually burnt, so I would advice to add in raisins maybe halfway through the baking.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Western Food Nostalgia

I remembered that when I was young, the word ‘western food’ is a luxury itself. Just a note though for that tender age, my meaning of western food covers every other food that is not Asian, may not be accurate in terms of culinary but bear with this little kid alright. So my sister and I always pester for the luxurious western food, much to the chagrin of my parents, especially my daddy who if you give him a table spread with Chinese dishes, he is a happy man. So when can we ever get to eat luxuriously? Only on special occasions like mother’s day (a very good reason to celebrate for our mummy, ah, even when young we were smart enough to make it as if the reason is for my mummy and not our tummy). Our ‘western’ feast would usually be at Panorama, Taiping one and only famous ‘western’ restaurant, at that time. Our version of ‘western food’ mainly consists of fish and chips, chicken chop (I have to admit this restaurant makes a really good one) and mushroom soup, thanks to the limited choices in the menu.

Then one day my ingenious dad thought of a place to bring us to, when our whining for ‘western food’ got over to his head, that is a Chinese, yes noted Chinese hawker restaurant, that has a stall that served ‘western food’ and another stall serving Chinese food – char kuey teow,. So then, if ever we need to satisfy our cravings, our parents can savour the char kuey teow while sis and I have our chicken chop and fish and chips. How’s that? Later on, my dad took us to another western food stall at hawker center (a famous hawker eatery in Taiping with various stalls), where he claim that the cook is from Panorama itself, that came out to open his own business, a friend of my dad (did I mention that almost everyone in Taiping is his friend?). We were so happy to be able to enjoy Panorama western food there, not because it is cheaper by margin (that is for my dad to be happy about), but because it means more frequency of this treat for us while there are so many other stalls for my parents to choose from!

So after I came over to KL, that is how generally the story of my life would lead to, if you are a regular reader you would notice, I too would look out for ‘western food’. But of course in the meantime, I found out that there is much more to fish and chips or chicken chop or mushroom soup, but somehow I feel I would need a quick fix at some Chinese restaurant for ‘western food’. After 4 years of searching from KL to PJ (after moving over), I finally found the place, thanks to my dear J who introduce the place to me, at the heart of PJ itself, just a stone’s throw away from our place, SS3 western food, oh yes, the stall even name itself western food.

This place brings me back the reminiscence of those days I had western food with my family on a ‘normal’ day. Even the old-style tomato and chili ketchup here reminds me of the good ol’ days – the squeeze bottle style.

Once seated, you will be served promptly with a basket of generously buttered garlic bread. Naturally I ordered mushroom soup as a starter. This version of can-mushroom-soup style has some extra mushrooms chunks in it for some toothy feel and light enough without tasting watered down. It is also especially good to dunk in your bread into this one. These pair are entertaining enough while waiting for your main dish.

Then for J, being a big eater that he is, he would always order the mixed grill, consisting of fried fish, sausage, grilled lamb and chicken chop, serve with fried, mixed vegetables (diced corn, peas and carrot) and some sliced cucumber and tomatoes plus lettuce. This would certainly satisfy a ravenous boy while enough for me to pick on too.

For me, I would usually go for fish, now since older and had tasted better real fish and chips elsewhere, I seldom order it anymore, and thus I ordered the fish fillet in special sauce. It is actually dory fish fillet doused in some white sauce that I can’t really make out the ingredients, but I remembered that it was ok. It was also served with the same side dishes as the mixed grill.

I had also tried a few other dishes here (I don’t know where the other pictures have gone, I vividly remembering taking so many times, J even questioned me what were the differences, ha-ha), but anyway, I recalled that the chicken chop with garlic sauce was good but the grilled salmon was not that good as it was not that fresh, and the beef stew which I tried once was not bad, but I always somehow goes back to mushroom soup (for old time’s sake).

Come to think of it, it has been sometime since I revisit this good ol’ place, time for me to pester J for my ‘luxurious western food’, but this one I would not need an excuse of a special occasion or choices of Chinese food!

Restaurant Hup Soon
Jalan SS 3/29
47300 PJ
Jalan 3/29, SS3 Kelana Jaya
47300 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
4:30pm - late. Close on Tuesdays.
3°5'43"N 101°36'40"E

Thursday, September 18, 2008

New Adventures and Tastes

Recently after acquiring our long dreamt of 4X4 pickup truck, J and I had been pretty adventurous with it. We took it for the first off road, climbing over ‘mini hills’ at Pulau Indah. Indeed our first experiencing engaging 4 wheels was exhilarating, there some even said they have never engage in 4 wheels despite owning one for quite some time. After that, we went in search of something different and found ourselves going to the waterfalls! Oh yeah, our pickup went on its first crossing over a river, albeit a shallow and small one, but then again, it is just so cool. We had so much fun! We even wash our truck on the river itself, thanks to J’s ingenious idea, though later on we found there were no difference after the wash as the river water leaves some residues. Regardless, J and I had a lot of fun with it, and we definitely believe there is more to come.

Anyway, after the adventurous waterfall ride, we along with a group of friends went to a special BBQ restaurant located at the foot of Bukit Tinggi on our way home. It is pretty special as there are a few dishes that we cannot (or I have yet to discover, would appreciate if you can introduce me if you know any) get in Klang Valley.

Upon reaching there, our friend C (a great photographer which I found valuable in teaching me photography tricks and a tham jiak kaki to boot, I sense many more food adventures to come), who recommended this place with ‘must-eat-dishes went to the toilet, so while waiting we decided to order some drinks first. A big old wooden board written with boldly with ‘BBQ Juice’ caught my eye, so I enquired the lady who is there to take our order on what it is. She said it is their in house special blended juices of pineapple and carrot, no sugar added she stressed. So we all ordered one each, no ice and it came thickly blended, sweet despite no added sugar and surprisingly suitable, worth every ringgit of the RM5, but I wished it has a little bit more, as we finished off even before our meal ended.

Picture courtesy of C

When we just started enjoying the juice, our toilet friend came back and started ordering the out of his experience. Just hearing his orders made me the more curious and the more tham jiak to try it soon. So first came a plate full of huge green chillies. Oh yeah, big crunchy chillies, lightly doused in dark sauces, gentle blend of soy sauce, oyster sauce and whatever Chinese dark sauce you can think of (this is my excuse for not able to make out the ‘special’ sauce. This dish was certainly a joy to bite into and don’t worry, the cook had ensure every single seed have been scrapped out, thus leaving the flavourful skin for us to enjoy without having to reach for water, mind you especially when our special edition juices is in limited portion.

Picture courtesy of C

Then came the highly expected tower steam seafood, where you have medleys of clams, crabs, mussels and prawns that are steaming atop a tower like steaming pot. The seafood were just steamed freshly without much flavouring, for us to enjoy the goodness of fresh seafood, though sadly it was not that fresh (i am sorry, but the Chinese food critic side of me is kicking in), thus not as sweet and flavourful as it could have been. J the sole critic of this blog also mentioned that this dish does need some flavour, and i knew the lacking is the sweet freshness of it, but what do we expect from the foot of a hill?

But this dish is still much worth the try, as it is certainly a fresh way to eat seafood, i would say the best way if you want to ask a Chinese, to fully appreciate the taste of sea. On top of this, the dish is not all that, it has something hidden. Underneath the tower, the pot is actually collecting all the steam juices from the seafood, and when it has enough, the cook came and took it away and then came back with, voila, seafood soup. Yum, this i have to give the thumbs up as it is flavourful with seafood juices along with vegetables and mushrooms, though a tad salty after you drink quite a bit but a wonderful match with white rice!

Besides, C also ordered ‘shut san fei wu’, if reminded me of a Chinese drama that I used to watch, and in my mean I am picturing some snowy mountain far far away. Then the dish came and cure my wild imagination, it is actually salt crusted fish stuffed with garlics, green chilli, onions and chestnuts, barbequed to perfection, then serve with the crust open as if to show that it is flying. I would give thumbs up to presentation and taste for this one. It also reminded me of one of my favourite dish in Bangkok, similar in cooking style but stuffed instead with Thai cuisine must have, the lemongrass. This one also become my favourite of the lot instantly, J even start questioning whether I can make this at home, then my imagination started again with me using LOTS of flour, some water and LOTS of salt to just cover the fish and then set up bbq set to cook to perfection, so I look at him squarely and said no. Guess we had to make another visit to eat this again.

Also not to forget, i had to mention that the decoration here is pretty unique as well. They hangs various style and brand of umbrellas at the ceiling and then line their wall with shelves that is filled with empty wine bottles. C said the corkage her for wine is free, but you have to leave the bottle for the owner to put it up for deco, it would be novel indeed to have yours immortalize here. Maybe the next time we visit, we can bring some wine.

Judging from our upcoming activities to fill for our truck, the next visit to this place is not too far away, ah so tham jiak is contented for now.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Bitter Come Back

Psst, has it been more than a month? Oh it is? Oh gosh, what excuse do would I have this time? What, none that could be sufficient you say? What bout it is the holidays? No? What bout it is the Olympic times? No? What bout it is my birthday? Phew, so that is reason enough? I nearly thought it would not and that would have greatly disappointed me.

So yeah, it’s the time of the year again, where as I mentioned just last year, would be time where families and friends get together with me to catch up and help me say good bye to tears and happiness of the past year and hello to more life to come. I have so much up my sleeves, life to live, goals to achieve and dreams to chase. First I have to have it all planned. Time and life seem to slip past me in tiptoes.

Recently J and I had finally ventured out again to a new eatery which we meant to try everytime we drove pass it but never did. Yes it is so near to where we live and besides, the name of the shop is does pick on one’s curiosity. It is called ‘Fu Kua Restaurant’ which means ‘Bittergourd Restaurant’ and yes, the notorious bitter vegetable that half the population love and the other loathe.

I still remember well on how my love affair with fu kua (bittergourd) started. Once my Ah Ma learnt this new dish, fried egg with bittergourd (chow fu kua tan) from a relative, she started to make it frequently whenever she got her hands on fu kua. It is like the style of your regular omelettewith onions, but sans onions and with fu kua sliced really thin (and amazingly uniformed,
if you know my Ah Ma). I. Hated. It. Yes, I did. First I shunned away from the dish entirely, then out of tham jiak-ness, I tore out bits and parts of the egg that are not attached to fu kua and eat it. Then next time when this dish came on the menu again, I did the same, where soon I started to tear of eggs that have some fu kua bits stuck to it and eventually I started to eat the fu kua with the egg. What happen? Well let’s just say I have eased myself into eating fu kua with egg. From then on, there was no turning back. I started even to eat other fu kua dishes and have ever since asked myself why have I deprived myself for so long. Of course up till now, my absolute favourite fu kua dish was still my Ah Ma’s fu kua tan, which sadly I cannot find anywhere else; maybe I should try replicating it.

Anyway, back to the fu kua restaurant. Guess what? Since the first time we tried this restaurant, it had been a love at first meal, and we have been back for four times, yes four, in the past few weeks. Why? This is because the food is yummy, and not to mention healthy and the services is quick and attentive. On all occasions they have not fail to deliver as expected. Oh ya, and the prices are reasonable too for its portions. Even J, the ever food and service critic, has given a thumb up to this place, now that is rare. It had became one of our we-will-definitely-come-back place. How can I not blog about it then? So to follow would be the galore of fu kua dishes for you from all of our occasions eating there.

This dish is our must have where we ordered at every occasion we are there, the fu kua tong (bittergourd soup). It comes with thin slices of fu kua (yes, uniformed and I am that detail) and pork slices, pork meatballs, chicken slices, ginger slices and tomatoes. I also taste that the soup base does have dried ikan bilis (anchovies).

Then the next dish was chow fu kua with taucu yu. It is a popular way that fu kua is prepared, where usually with chicken, but this one is with fish slices. Yummy as its counter part but with an extra bonus of soft meat.

We had also once ordered pork feet fu kua and was surprised by it. It is your usual stewed pork feet but this one added with the ubiquitous taucu to go with your huge slices of fu kua. Something different but I would not say the best. But beware, this one came in quite a huge portion, even when we ordered only for two.

I also could not resist ordering fu kua tan on the first occasion, but was slightly disappointed as it was not prepared my Ah Ma’s omelette style which I had been hoping for. Nevertheless, it was also good the way it is, if not better.

Then besides having meal with rice, they also have fried noodles dishes with yes, fu kua even! So we had tried both their fried tong fun (a kind of rice noodle) with fu kua and I would say it’s the usual dried style, just that it had been added with fu kua as ingredient.

But the other noodle which we had tried, fried kuey teow with fu kua and taucu was definitely different from your usual kon chao hor (fried kuey teow wet style). It was yummy and worth a try.

Before you start thinking that this restuarant has only all things fu kua, you are wrong. They do have many other Chinese dishes that does not have fu kua, some seem pretty interesting as well, so we did try a few. One which is new to us but surprisingly crunchy and delicious was the ham yu chao kai (fried chicken with salted fish). It came with chicken fried in salted fish batter and curry leaves, thus have the chicken with salty and deliciously crispy skins. A must try if you want something other than fu kua.

There was also once we ordered their chiu pai tau fu (house brand tofu) which was actually your usual block of local tofu but this version is fried and then top with minced pork sauce.

Oh yea, to end the meal, you just must have the fu kua drink. Yes I said fu kua drink. I ordered the first time anxiously and was surprisingly blown off by the taste. Its amazing. But do remember to first stir the honey at the bottom thoroughly to mix with your fu kua before drinking else it would be bitterly tasteless (if there is such thing). there is also a dried sour plum inside with the drink. It is a really special concoction that has me ordering every time I’m there.

Go on and be adventurous, and try this fu kua restaurant. Even a friend of mine, who was not that into fu kua, told me she found the dishes here to her liking. The place here prepared the fu kua in style that is not really bitter, most likely they have it soaked several times as how my Ah Ma had told me she does to take away some bitterness.

So there you have it, a seriously bitter post which is actually about something really delicious

Fu Kua Restaurant
Unit 19,
Jalan SS23/15,
Taman S.E.A.,
47400, Petaling Jaya
11am to 3pm and 5.30pm to 11pm
N3 06.931 E101 36.748

Sunday, July 13, 2008

We Came, We Saw, We Conquered, We Cook!

One way to start writing is to stop reading, I believe I mentioned this once before eons (exaggerating) in this blog, and it still holds really true. Two of my life’s greatest passions are writing and reading, therefore they often both compete fiercely for my time. I usually end up going through my ever-increasing list of google readers list and then my free time is up, and my dear blog abandoned. to be honest too, I do not have much to write about recently, with the usual excuse you would not want to hear about but now added with one more! J and I currently are pretty out of cash thanks to our recent indulgence in a 4X4 pickup, which so happen to be both our dreams now fulfilled, therefore not much spare for food indulgence.

Anyway, in a recent comment, a dear reader TummyThoz asked where is the report on my camping trip? I have not thought anyone would be interested to know what we did there, but it seems there is! It was great fun, we did crazy things, bathed in the waterfall, cooked with the same water (ha-ha), conquered Mount Stong, slept in the rain and then wake up in the wee hours to catch the sunrise at the well known lovers rock. What else can we ask for? On top of it all, it was the companies that made it all so worthwhile; definitely there will be more trips together!

Before we reached the foot of the mountain, we had a stop nearby for lunch to fuel our 2 hours climb to our camp site. There I saw a really special looking bottled Sarsi drink. We all stared at it, took picture but none of us want to try it. There was no information of the ingredients or expiry date. Later on, when I was hiking up Gunung Stong, the guide told me that Pokok Sarsi (tree), abundant in Gunung Ayam (the next higher mountain beside Stong), can be boiled to make Sarsi drink! How interesting, so that explains the queer bottled Sarsi with the logo of ayam (chicken). Then and there I regretted not trying the drink, after all it was locally made and not to be found anywhere else!

Fortunately for me though, before we leave the camp site the next day, our guide present us with pieces of pokok Sarsi, asking us to try boiling it for a drink! I was so delighted! Now I can make my own Sarsi drink all the way fresh from Gunung Ayam! (we were suppose to split among ourselves of these but I have yet to do so, I hope my hiking gang would not mind, ha-ha)

Since this is a food blog, I must also talk about the food we had there. Cooking in the camp is definitely no easy feat, luckily Q, our head chef did a thorough planning beforehand, so none of us went hungry. She even had a menu printed out!

Therefore while we worked hard to set up the camp and play hard as well, we had in mind what we would soon have to feast on. Such bliss! The most memorable meal was so happen to be the first meal. We had ‘steamboat’ as well as many dishes to accompany along. We were sort of fighting for the food and gorging it like we haven’t eaten in days. I remembered the Sambal Chicken (pictured below at bottom left) was really good, and was impressed that Q can pull this off in our condition. I am in the midst of getting the recipe from her, so stay tuned for a deceptively simple Sambal Chicken that one can even cooked with minimal utilities! Pardon our gluttony below.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Touch My Heart

“Touch the heart”, that is what it literary meant for the infamous Chinese cuisine,m Dim Sum. Apart from what was said as historical founding of Dim Sum (still with citation needed)in Wiki, to me somehow at the back of my mind, Dim Sum started right inside the royal palace. It was meant to be a feast fit for a King for sure, with its various complicated preparations, many special varieties, delicate creation (only possible to be created ages ago by King’s wives and concubines in their free time to win over his hearts) and most of with luxurious ingredients (in those times) like meat, seafood and fruits. I imagine many Dim Sum were churn out month after month by them just to compete to ‘touch the heart’ of their King. Just in case, I might reiterate that this was all in the back of my mind, histories formed by me out of too many Chinese dramas and stories I would say. I would quote what I said as ‘citation needed’ as well, he-he.

Once I read from a long time favourite Hong Kong food blog of mine, his version of how Dim Sum came about, certainly the other side of the coin in comparison to mine. To Cha Xiu Bao it was “point to the heart” where it meant stab to the heart with a cleaver, you say ‘what!’; well to know the full story head over here. For me, let me remain with my girlish dreams of ‘touching hearts’ and happy endings.

As Chinese, I am somehow strangely drawn towards Dim Sum, my banner has already long displays my love for it. Moreover, I am one who delights in many tastes and textures during my meal, and where else can I get it better than a Dim Sum feast. We have the soft pillowy Char Xiu Bao (steamed pork bun), chewy Siu Mai (steamed pork dumpling), delicate Har Gau (steamed shrimp dumpling in thin translucent skin), soft silky Cheong Fun (steamed rolled rice noodles), crunchy and crumbly Wu Gok (fried taro dumpling with shrimp/pork/mushrooms), steamy and soupy Xiu Long Bao (steamed mini pork dumplings with soup) and the rests of sweet desserts to clear the palate such as Egg Tart, Jin Dui (fried sesame dumpling with sweet fillings) and water chestnut cake (had it in Hong Kong, seldom found in Malaysia). From these you can imagine how I fell head over heels in first bite for this cuisine since I was young where the love was further much reinforced during my trip to Hong Kong.

So when I J told me to seek for a Dim Sum brunch buffet for his father’s birthday-plus-father’s day celebration, my heart made a summersault of joy, and so I went in quest to find a good one of which I did, I found China Treasures.

Although it was Halal, pardon me but many of the famous Dim Sum is actually made of pork and we cannot really imagine otherwise, the definite first response from a typical Chinese would be “no pork definitely will be not as nice”, but China Treasures truly crosses this stereotype and brought us to enjoy Dim Sum in new ways. I would not say it is better than other rich pork-laden Dim Sum out there, but in its own class, it is praise worthy. In fact when we talk bout pork must-have is definitely the Cha Xiu Bao, and here we have one which taste surprisingly quite like the real one, slightly different yet still tasty, I had doubled orders for it, note that this is buffet style where you can order as many times as you want, provided you can finish it, and boy can J family and I eat, we definitely can be certified as top customers after that, in the eating-the-most department of course.

One special dish was the dumpling in special sauce which I could not remember the Chinese name but it was indeed special, where it is a cross of Sui Gao (shrimp and pork dumpling, in this case no pork) with sweet and slightly spicy sauce. It was J’s mum’s favourite.

We also had cheong fun to fill in some area of our never-ending stomach; I must say it was pretty good as well. Skin is soft and filling is flavourful though the chilli lack some kick.

Next was the Har Gao, one of my Dim Sum favourite, where this one scores pretty well with translucent and soft skin plus generous fillings of fresh prawns, delish!

Then we had various usual Dim Sum dishes of Xiu Long Bao, meatballs, fishballs and Siu Mai, though these dishes aren’t exactly praiseworthy but it was nonetheless alright for me.

We also had a soup dish each, I could not remember what was it called again but it wasn’t exactly really good as it had a slightly fishy taste to it.

At the fried department, we had many varieties, which not all that I managed to take pictures of. I remembered a there was the favourite dragonbeard dumpling, where it was rolled in vermicelli and then deep fried, crunchy and tasty and definitely need chef of certain skills to make it. We also had fried turnip cake, Wu Gok (taro cake) and not to forget is the stir fried carrot cake which was really good and we finished it so fast I did not manage to take a picture of it, but luckily you can have a look here.

We also missed out the fried almond dumpling in first few orders and had it at the last, much to our regret as it was really good as well. If I was not wrong, it was seafood paste coated with almond and then deep fried.

Scoring high on the dessert department was the sweet potato puff, where earlier I read that it was good at WMW, and boy was she right. The puff was crumbly and crispy the same while the sweet potato filling was not too sweet and authentic. The egg tarts was alright too as I remembered.

Finally we all had a dessert each, inclusive in the promotion, where we ordered a few varieties, the special lime jelly which was not exactly as expected as it does have a ‘special’ taste to it, the fig tree tong sui (sweet soup) was not bad as claimed by Q and finally my mango cream was good as well, creamy and sweet. One that was not pictured here was the walnut cream, which was rich in taste and texture, definitely worth a try.

Overall, China Treasures is definitely a place I recommend if you want to have a good and quiet feast with your family and friends. The brunch buffet promotion of RM33++ (only till end of this year, so hurry!) is a steal for such fine dining, just a note though they charge extra for the appetizers they serve up front, so let them know if you do not want it. The service was good and attentive, environment clean and peaceful (just a bit packed during peak lunch hour). What more can we ask for with Dim Sum dining of various choices, air conditioned without the usual rowdy crowds and Chinese teas serve in these beautiful dainty little cups. Told you it was a feast fit for a King.

China Treasures
Sime Darby Convention Centre
1A, Jalan Bukit Kiara 1,
Kuala LumpurTel
03 - 2089 3788

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Hakka and Healthy Side of Me

Alright, I am still alive, I repeat alive, albeit slightly worn out. No I was not lost in a jungle from my camping trip. And no I did not forget this blog. Life has been pretty hectic, sounds familiar but yes I guess that is the general direction my life tends to lean towards. I finally got my apartment, found tenants to save me on my rent, shifted in my loads of things and have YET to clean up the place after a major renovation, and by major I meant repainting, piping, tiling, adding kitchen counter, ceiling fans and phew, I sincerely could not remember everything. It was a total makeover, yet to be completed, due to my laziness, and some events popping up here and there. So finally I would have a kitchen to myself, but I have yet to even clean it out and displayed my things in its full glory. Ah, I can feel the tham jiak inside me squirming to roam free again in her very own kitchen, so I commit here to as soon as possible, make it decent enough to cook a meal. There said.

Speaking of being really busy, besides my ever increasing work load and eventful personal life, I have added my business up a notch – workout. Alright, what is a tham jiak person doing with workout? Well, I guess in order to stay tham jiak while remain healthy, I guess one have to make some drastic moves, and so I did. There, be proud of me alright. So on speaking of being busy plus working out, I had to talk about eating healthy as well right?

There was one incredible Hakka dish that I can always count on when I want a quick fix for lunch, where it is fast, full of good stuff and definitely fuel you up for the day – Ho Po Lui Cha. Have I ever mention before that I was half Hakka? I am, as my mum is Hakka, though I am not sure which clan, but indeed this side of me loves the traditional dish of Lui Cha. I read it before long ago, and have always wanted to try but did not make the effort to travel far just for a ‘quick fix’, and lo and behold, I stumbled upon one right outside my house here. This one was a vegetarian version; you would not miss much meat here but sometimes was enough to satisfy my thirst for Lui Cha before I fulfill my quest to find the ultimate one.

Restoran Gembira
39 Jalan
Taman Megah
Petaling Jaya
also famous for its Sarawak Kolo Mee)

Lui Cha is different in terms of Malaysia’s hawker ‘fast food’, where it does not have fatty siu yoke, char siew, fried lards and just a little bit of vegetable at the side. This one is full of it, it is green-tea-soup based with loads of vegetables, tofu, brown rice (sometimes you can opt for white but why would one when the brown ones gave it dish so much depth and brings it to a deeper level of healthiness) and toasted peanuts plus other lentils. The greenish soup, as explained in Wiki as, “Lei cha (literally "pounded tea") is a Hakka tea-based beverage or gruel consisting of a mix of tea leaves that are ground or pounded together with various roasted nuts, seeds, and grains”, definitely would not be just anyone’s cup of tea, J had a long time before he got use to eat, and still only eat a little from my share once a while. But somehow, with the thought of heathiness, plus all the goodness in it, I just somehow found myself falling in love with the dish, besides the wonderful textures and taste of course.

And then I stumbled upon another Lui Cha at SS2’s Restaurant OK. It totally blew me off. It was more flavourful, with addition of some dried prawns and with truly fragrant toasted peanuts. I would certainly opt for this one anytime, but it is hard to get a seat here usually on weekends lunch time and parking is a tad crazy too. But somehow, I am happy I found that I am willing to brace the crowd for once a while when the craving hits.

Restoran Okay
SS2 Cheow Yang Area
(also famous for Wan Tan Mee)

Then there was also one place, near the place I used to work at Sri Petaling. Usually, J and I would come out for lunch, those were the lovely days, I would always again and again suggest to go there as I absolutely love the generous portion of Lui Cha there with to-die-for nutty brown rice. This rice is especially special compare to the rest of those I tried out there, and it also scores in having fragrantly toasted peanuts. I had a wonderful picture of it long ago, but too bad it was stuck in a temporarily dysfunction home computer, once I got it out, I would certainly post it here. You corporate slaves of TPM should certainly head to Rabbit Café, yes that is the name, certainly a cliché one for having healthy Lui Cha. Do try out its value for money and fulfilling set lunches that comes with choices of rojak or fruits and coffee or tea. I miss it so much.

Rabbit Cafe
No. 12G & 14G,
Jalan 14/149L,
Zone P,
Bandar Baru Sri Petaling,
57000 Kuala Lumpur

Finally most recent addition to my list was non other than another nearby spot to my house, the famous Ming Tien, for its huge selection yes every changing stalls. I guess due to its size, there are more stalls that might changed. This one was nothing spectacular, still good enough to satisfy whenever I am there and stumped for choice, oh yes, I usually could not find anything from the vast selection usually, therefore having my favourite healthy Lui Cha seemed like a natural choice.

Ming Tien
Jalan SS 24/8,
Taman Megah,
47301 Petaling Jaya,

So there you have it, a short guide to finding Lui Cha around my house area, ha-ha, well around PJ area plus one at Sri Petaling. Do drop me comments here if you have good recommendations. The hunt for the ultimate Lui Cha have not ended yet!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Camping Time!

I am off to camping at this place, hope that it will be fun and till then, wait for me alright for more food to come!

And yes, that bag is as HUGE as it seems!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Passions, Dreams and Italian Cooking

Maybe someday I would write my own cookbook. Maybe it wasn’t as impossible as it used to seem since so many bloggers had proven otherwise. Sometimes I just want to sit down and write and write and write some more. Now sitting on my bed typing just by staring at the bright screen against the endless darkness of my room, I feel so euphoric. At times when I was bit with writing bug, I found my hands itching but the time ticking away regardless of whether I had the chance to hit the keyboard or not. So usually my blog is deprived, so were my readers (let me assume here alright) and my writing alter ego too while the other parts of my life thrives. I guess sometimes we do have to balance here and there but nothing beats coming down to just do what you like. After all did we not have a word for that? Oh ya, passion. I hope I will never forget mine and someday, just someday I will have a cookbook published in my name, various articles of my food writing in notable places while I am running a full fledged food business. Oh no, did I just spilled out all my hopes and dreams here? Ah, this abyss-like room is starting to get into my head.

Anyway speaking of writing, recently I have just went to a cooking demo by Chef Federico Michieletto, a corporate chef for the infamous Tai Thong group in Malaysia that had just recently launched a cookbook named Pasta My Italy. This Italian Pastas and Desserts cooking demo was actually organized by my high school, Convent Taiping’s alumni. At first I was a tad bit lazy to go all the way to KL of a place I do not know of early in the morning but luckily a close friend of mine is to take pictures of the event, therefore I chug alongside happily. Armed with the map in my PDA (which shocked my friend who said she is still all pen-and-paper girl); we got to the place with another friend in time for the demo.

It started with the Chef introducing himself where he also brought along a sidekick, named Ming (who reminds me of one celebrity chef) and I found the Chef really funny and charming while his sidekick was quiet. We started off with desserts as both of them requires some chilling time to be done, so we hoped to have it set by the time we finish our session. It was more than I can hope for to kick start with my favourite parts, especially the Chef from Italy himself is to show us the classic Tiramisu! Something I had always wanted to make but never quite did, which now I should kick myself for as it is really so easy! All you need is a good recipe, strong arms for whipping and you are all done, oh and don’t forget the fridge. Then he also shows us the basic version of panna cotta served only with fresh fruits (Chef said that this is how they like it in Italy), a taste of it was certainly a surprise to me as it was really creamy, smooth and soft, do not judge a book by its cover!

To sum up the lessons for desserts:

1. A chef always taste what he cooks, or you would never know whether it is good or not
2. Hand whipping of cream produce superior results than machine, besides the point where you can easily over-whipped with a machine where when it does, the cream will split and all is lost. As the chef continued to explained, cream is made up of fat and water, and when it split, technically you have just remove the water and accidentally made butter! Nothing too bad but that is not what you want for Tiramisu eh?
3. Just dip the sponge fingers quickly in the espresso each time, where if you snap it in half you can see that the inside are still dry and hard, this is what you want as later on it will soak on all the liquid goodness from the cheese and cream and becomes soft and yummy like how a Tiramisu should be.

Then into the huge refrigerators these babies went and we continued to pastas! The Chef and his helper Ming did an amazing feat of cooking two pasta dishes nearly at one go each time. He gave a lot of tips in various areas of basic Italian pasta cooking, which makes me go ohhhh and ahhhh. Here are the summaries of what I can remember and which had me really going with the expressions mentioned.

1. The way that usual experts (note: chef) usually takes pasta out of their packet is by – Chef proceeded to hitting the packet of pasta real hard at one end onto the table and voila, the other end popped out pastas in perfect form.
2. Hold the pasta together and lower it into the middle of the pot and then let go to flow all around like flowers – the right way to boil pasta

3. In order to achieve the perfect ‘al dente’, Chef does it by ‘look’, while us the lesser humans can use the trick of throwing it onto a wall and if it sticks, it is done! Honest! The real al-dente version that the Italians like (Chef claimed) is slightly more on the harder side (with the core still not fully cooked), which he did for his first two dishes for us to try, where many claimed not to their palate but for me it was quite toothy and full of texture in fact.
4. Classic carbonara does not have cream in it (in fact loads of egg yolks) and therefore should be yellowish in oppose to white sauce ones which we found in most carbonara dishes out in the restaurants in Malaysia
5. Carbonara loves black pepper a lot
6. One trick from Chef is that they usually reuse the water used to boil the pasta during the cooking of the sauce – later on deduce by me to have the bit of pasta flavor in as well as clever reuse of the salty water plus bringing some of the ‘flour’ from the pasta into the sauce to make more smooth
7. Oh and by the way, Chef said to boil pasta with added salt, usually in ratio of 5 parts water with 1 part salt (very much more than I have ever used!)
8. For the Aglio Olio, it is usually just plain garlic and olive oil but Chef found that Malaysians love more flavors, thus he usually adds in some chopped chilies, dried chili flakes, chopped parsleys and torned basil leaves
9. Oh ya, basil leaves are usually add in at the end, torned and never cut/slice to retain its natural flavor (mm, I love basil! Think Thai)
10. Arrabiata means angry therefore he named the dish Penne Arrabiata as “Angry Penne”, which I found amusing

10. Normally pastas with chilies in it do not need additional black pepper, either too much spiciness ofrclash in terms of 'spiciness' differences
11. One more special trick from Chef is that the pit inside the garlic is the main reason of the smell that lingers in your mouth, so remove it if you want to have loads of garlic but still kiss after dinner
12. We should also try to remove the seeds from the chilies and the chilies flakes as it is hard to digest

Alright that’s about it that I can remember for now, the bed starts to feel more inviting than my writing bug. There you have it, the real Italian cooking pastas and desserts.

Update: Recipes can be found at our Convent Taiping Alumni blog.

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