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

Saturday, January 23, 2010

The Taste of Happiness and Freedom

Every animal has its place in this world. Every animal has its right to live. So does a chicken. If needed to be bred for food, then at least they should be bred humanely. Free range is the way to go, where the chickens are free to roam the plains and live the way they would want to live, well yes in certain confined parameters, but who doesn’t live in such parameters, even us do. Anyway back to the chicken, so have you ever thought about those chickens cooped up in a tiny cage barely enough for them to stand straight all their live and then slaughtered for food? How can one eat an unhappy chicken? In fact does the chicken even know it is living? In light of current movements where we start to understand where our food comes from, and we start to care where and how it comes to right in our plates, then definitely we need to know that even if those we consume are in the food chain and in course with nature, we should at least have done that in most humane way as possible. Even animals killed another animal with grace (mostly), and so we should likewise have done the same, be it we hunt them or more ubiquitously now in modern times where we rear them.

So here I introduce to you about a company called Sunshine Chicken (how apt!) with a heart that owns a 15 acre farm up in the highlands of the outskirts of Kuala Lipis, Pahang. Although a fairly new company, they had definitely started on the right foot in my own humble opinion, where they retain a sort of kampung (village) environment of lush green fields and fresh clean air as their setting for free range chicken farming. Here is sort of like chicken utopia, where they are allowed to live almost freely as animal. According to Sunshine Chicken, “Happy Chickens makes tasty chickens! Stress free means toxins free, makes our chickens taste more like chickens and less like something manufactured. “ . Also one key point to note was that they fed their chickens the natural ma cho, which literary translates as horse grass, it is well known in our Chinese community for its good natural properties. Even at home, J’s mum plant ma cho for own consumption, where she would boil the stalk parts for a refreshing drink! It tasted like light sugar cane water minus the whole load of sweetness. If you think this has already been special enough, wait till you hear about the castrated chickens. That’s right, castrated, and which they are also known as a Capon. According to my favourite information site online, the Wikipedia, the castration produces a unique type of poultry meat where the male would accumulate more body fat and in overall often to have more tender, juice and flavourful meat in comparison to a normal chicken.


Being a tham jiak, and having a huge good bunch of foodie friends, allowed me to explore this wonderful happy and fatty too in some, chickens, where indeed it was seriously tastier, I kid you not. Thanks to Babe in City - KL and Gerald, who organized this great outing and for inviting me to it. As we can read at babe’s blog, we all have gathered at Kedai Makanan Chef Tam in Selayang, I got there easily thanks to my GPS. Here we were served with both the aforementioned special chickens. We had the ma cho kai roasted deep fried and then hung to dry. Indeed such a unique preparation that had most of us thought roasted, no wonder it had such crispy skin yet do not taste oily at all! Thumbs up to the chef! As for the capon, we had it at its natural best, where it was just simply steamed with some salt – steamed yim kai. And for this, I may so attest to what had been explained by dear Wikipedia, it has a superb texture which is toothy yet juicy! With accompaniment of the minced ginger that pack a punch and a flavourful soft rice that was cooked with the steamed chicken broth, I swear I could eat just these as a meal itself!


But apart from the chicken being the main thing of the entire affair, somehow the seafood does take a piece of their own 15 minutes of fame. With fresh seafood sourcing directly from their famous neighbour Jin Chwan Seafood Garden, we get to eat the fresh, plump and creamy oyster which was one of those rare ones that does not have the sang mei (the sort of metallic taste that you get when eating seafood that are not fresh). We also had the steamed Garoupa from Sabah which was in another of Chinese simplicity to present the best out of the fresh fish.


Also to accompany our meal, and also to probably clean our palate from all those indulging food, we have the tofu and the stir fried green vegetable. I really liked the tofu where it was fried to create a ‘casing’ that gave a light crunch before you get to the smooth silky part. I truly enjoy this humble dish, which may actually be not so humble anymore judging the skill needed to prepare it.


This meal has truly been eye opening, I learnt a lot that when one cares where does the food comes from, be it free ranged animals to live fresh seafood, it does wonders to the end product of the dish. Like the philosophy I hold to when it comes to cooking, get the best and freshest ingredient, half the job has already been done to make the dish good even before you cook it. Therefore, try free range chicken if you want to cook up a feast, you may get them from Sunshine Chicken through these places or contact Gerald if needed. As for those who would like to savour them with skills of a chef, I would certainly recommend you to try out Chef Tam’s.

Kedai Makanan Chef Tam
6A Jalan Bidara 2/4,
Taman Bidara, Selayang.
603 6138 8751
12pm-3pm, 6pm11pm

Jin Chwan Seafood Garden
9 Jalan 2/4,
Taman Bidara, Selayang
603 6138 2633
Business Hours:
8am-10pm

45-2, 2nd Floor, Jalan Menara Gading 1,
Medan Connaught
56000 Kuala Lumpur
6039102 3950

Here are some of the lucky tham jiaks at that time:

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Back to Earth

I felt like as if I have dropped out of this Earth. Does transitioning of years (man-defined even but with backings of astrology sorts of course) has anything to do with it? Does everyone fall out and return just like me? Or am I the only one? < insert mysterious tune at the background > Since we are at that , why not ask who am I? Where does the world comes from? Pardon me as I have been a tad philosophical recently due to reading a really good book that weaves the history of philosophy together in a 400 page story – Sophie’s World. The amazing thing is, a good friend introduced me to read it, so I went in search in the MPH bookstore and found there lonely one book and quickly grab it and ran to the counter with it under my sleeves lest somebody came to fight with me for it! I got out alive and thus been enjoying reading tremendously. Just about weeks later, I casually saunter into the same MPH bookstore, and walk around, lo and behold at the middle of the store on the tables where they usually showcase pick of the week or bestselling books, there are mountains, yes mountains!, of Sophie’s World stacked up on the table mocking me. At that time I was wondering if there is a conspiracy following what I read (such arrogance) but now on retrospect (writing does this to me), it seems then that they normally feature books that they just restocked (I bought the last one remember) so maybe to just get the books moving! Bah, I hope this assumption is wrong as we would not want our ‘pick of the week’ to be actually truly ‘new stock of the pick’, it takes the novelty out of it, it would even be slightly, just slightly better if it is ‘rokh’s current reading’ right?


Anyhow, back to Earth for me, we should be talking about food! See how I explained that I have dropped out of Earth, it seems I am still floating in and out of it, I wonder when I would settle down. Nevertheless, the world keeps spinning, people keep eating and I am still tham jiak. So just to kick start the year, I am reviewing this dear little blog of mine, after the four years anniversary, I found that there are few popular posts of all time in this blog, and I feel that it would be nice to share a little glory of this humble blog of mine, and also to put into retrospective where I want to head this blog towards. So without further ado, let me present you Tham Jiak’s top 8 (8 because Chinese New Year is just around the corner and the number 8 is especially auspicious for us Chinese, as it has the same homophone as ‘fortune’) blog posts:










Bak Chang
Oh this was definitely one of my own favourite posts too, as I learnt the ‘dying’ art of making Chinese bak chang. I was really worried then soon one day this will be lost to our current and future generations, as many now choose to purchase the commercial ones or eat at restaurants rather than make their own. Making them with Lai Ma that time was truly exciting and in short, though this may make me sound real young and over enthusiastic, simply awesome! I love how we had walked down the street from her house to an old wooden tim chai (sundry shop) nearby to get the bamboo leaves and the peas to the whole process of preparing all the ingredients which seemed like an endless list of things, but when you get down to it, it isn’t all that immense after all, then to the cooking of the meat and then frying of the rice to scooping all of the fillings onto the leaves and to what seem like my honest attempt to wrap them all in and then lowering them into boiling water while uttering some sort of prayer that it will not all turned loose and became a huge mess. After the whole endeavour, the bak chang came out perfect and somehow it tasted extremely good, thanks to all the heart and sweat poured into it. So go on and read about it all here, and who knows, you may make a resolution to make one for yourself this year?


Penang Food Diary
Oh how can I forget this food adventure of J and mine, at the food haven up north of Malaysia. Thinking back on all the food we had consumed in a span of one day, and yes ONE day, makes me shudder. I felt I had ate for the entire week! One of the most memorable dishes that I had in Penang that time, apart from my all time favourite Kek Lok Si laksa of course, is the Mee Mamak. The sinful plate of red stir fried noodles has a huge myriad of flavours all packed into this seemingly simple dish. Now I have a sudden hankering for it. Ah, it will definitely be on top of my list if I ever go visit Penang again.










Teochew Steam Fish
Ah, so it seems that a lot of people googled for this recipe and I hope it did certainly helped many of them to have this dish grace their dinner table and feed many tham jiaks out there. Though I would have loved to re-enact this dish instead with a huge fresh fish, but nonetheless what I managed to concoct the other day remained fresh in my mind. The recipe was definitely a keeper and one day I shall attempt it again when I get my hand on some good fish.










This was definitely one of my favourite attempted recipe, one that is truly Chinese yet able to satisfy my sweet tooth. Since young I have loved this dainty dessert and especially so after the Portuguese egg tarts made their inception in Taiping. Although this recipe of mine was not of my favourite Portuguese egg tart (the idea of puffy crust still scares me, but one day I shall brace it like how I did for my Sponge Cake), but I still love the soft eggy and slightly sweet filling and the cookie-style crust was quite good too.









Bangkok Food Post: A-Roi
Yes I do have to admit that, although I have been to Bangkok for numerous times, yes even at one point I am there more than I am in Malaysia, this had been the one of the very few post on Bangkok food, and it turned out that the crowd pleaser was the street snacks. I guess sometimes when one go to someplace too much, they took for granted all the good food that they can have all the time there and forgot to document everything down as if it is really precious. Looking back now, I really do miss a lot of Bangkok food, and someday I am so heading back there again (though I also had numerous time swore I did not want to go back after many, many flights), not just for the shopping, which was unbelievably cheap, but definitely for all the a-roi (delicious) food there. Oh I have a sudden vivid recollection of my favourite, one must be forewarned when reminiscing on food that it will leave a huge longing in the heart.










Char Siew
Now I know that so many people out there shared my sentiment to this meat call pork, and one that have been barbecued to point of charred skin but locked with all the sweet meaty juiciness inside. Ah, just trying to describe this special dish again makes my mouth waters. Anyhow, I have indeed wrote a long post of praise to it, so head on to read all about and where to get your hands, or rather teeth in this case on it, and the best ones at that. What are you waiting for?


Pandan Leaves
Although this post was also about Hak Lor Mai, the sweet Chinese dessert that uses Pandan Leaves, it seemed that the whole information in regards to pandan leaves was the main attraction to people. Probably I took this leave for granted, having it embedded in our various local cuisines from aromatic Nasi Lemak to kaya (coconut jam) to kuih-muih. It is no wonder that these plain looking leaves in disguise of a wonderful yet not intruding aroma that it imparts to anything it came in contact with, in this case cooking with would garner so much attention to this date. I am so grateful that it is one thing that is easily obtained in Malaysia.










Chee Cheong Fun: The Breakdown
It seemed that this guest post of mine from my dear friend L is here to stay definitely, with her extensive research and also eating of course on the many types of Chee Cheong Fun that one can find in Malaysia. We might not have covered the whole Malaysia entirely but even then, we have already manage to find four variations of totally diverse style and sauces, but all with the main ingredient of steamed rice flour sheets rolled up. I for one feel the need to inject here that, although I have tried so many of the types mentioned, the Taiping style Chee Cheong Fun is the best and shall always hold a special place in my heart, bias I may be, but it is really tasty, one must try it at least once in their lifetime!


So there you have it, the top 8 posts of this blog. From here I would announce my return to planet Earth, and I would like to resume some sort of normality, then again what is normal? Nevertheless, stick around a little longer as I have a long postponed write up on chickens, and I promised it is going to be interesting, think free range and castration (yes, you read this right). Till then, happy eating and cheers to a 2010 that would be filled with loads of good food!
* Malaysia * Good Food * Recipes * Travel *Reviews * Asia *