Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.
Showing posts with label Taiping. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Taiping. Show all posts

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Home is where the Best Feasts are

I am back! Just a long weekend off for my favourite celebration of the year, I felt as if I have left for an entire year! There was so much to catch up on, I felt as if I had an overrun marathon for the whole week that left me breathless.

Although I had eaten so much within that long weekend regardless that I had forewarned myself, I can vividly remember all the wonderful feasts. Few of them was taken outside in restaurants as we do not want to tire our dear grandmothers and mothers, but those few home made feasts was what I treasured most.

On my Ah Ma side, it had been many years since she cooked a feast for our Chinese New Year as all her children want her to rest and relax, while on my Pho Pho side, it would be the usual feast of my favourite dishes such as jiu hu char, which had me standing by the side of the bowl, nearly finishing off by wrapping it in fresh raw lettuce and popping it into my mouth again and again, ah bliss, and also the must have heart-attacking duck soup, I swear that it is more of duck ‘oil’, but nonetheless irresistible! These home cooked feasts will have me gobbling up as if there were no tomorrow while I just nibble on the restaurant food, which once I got so sick off I cheated my way out of dinner by saying I wanted to visit my Lai Ma (Nanny), which I did of course but with no food.

Speaking bout my Lai Ma, she is another wonder woman in kitchen, apart from being a wonder woman of raising kids, which would be another whole story I will share soon. Last year, when I got real lucky, she had me sit down and feasted on her food during my visit. At that time I was already full from lunch at Pho Pho’s but staring at her version of Chinese New Year home feasting; I could not resist and proceeded to have second lunch of the day! I cursed myself for eating too much beforehand while continued on feasting anyway. So this year, with the reminiscence of the wonderful feast I had with the tastes still vividly at the tip of my tongue, I smarted my way out from a lunch out with my relatives in a restaurant and ‘visited’ my Lai Ma on Chor Yat (first day of Chinese New Year) itself. Beside the fact that I was really yearning to see both my Lai Ma and Lai Pa (her husband) after a long time, I was also secretly yearning for her special dishes.

When I got there, many people were there visiting already, including U and her brother which grew up with me together under my Lai Ma’s care. I waited patiently while enjoying their company and once they leave, I casually asked if there is lunch. My Lai Ma was extremely surprised “What! You haven’t had your lunch? Why didn’t you say so just now?” Glancing at the clock which was showing only near to 3pm, it wasn’t that late from lunch but from my Lai Ma’s reaction, just like how a typical Chinese would react, it would had seemed like I had been starving for years. Quickly, she had me get the rice while she got me a big bowl of ham choy thong (salted vegetable soup). I stared at the spread in front of me and proceeded to enjoy the feast, this time with lots of room in my tham jiak stomach to fit in.

The ham choy thong is how I always remembered it would be, as she cooks it quite frequently, salty, slightly spicy and sourish, which serves real well as an appetizer. Then there was the must-have steamed chicken, eaten with her homemade green chili sauce. Another meat dish is the lor bak (deep fried marinated minced pork rolled in thin soybean sheets) which was home made by my Lai Ma’s sister was really good too. The chunky minced pork was really juicy and fragrant while the soybean sheets were perfectly crunchy. My Lai Ma made pickled cucumber to eat with it, which surprisingly pairs really well together and to me, it was better than the usual Loh sauce (dark sauce thicken with corn starch, usually served at the hawker stalls).

Then next is my favourite chow mangkuang (stir fried sliced yam bean) which tastes like my Ah Ma’s Cantonese version with added cuttlefish strips. This dish has similarity to my Pho Pho’s Hakka darker and much more sinful version, which is to be eaten best wrapped in fresh lettuces.

Finally, it was the star dish of the day, which was the first that came to my mind when I was reminiscing about her dishes of last year. It is the stir fried ngaku (arrowhead/arrowroots) with nam yue (fermented red beancurd) that despite looking weird with its pinkish hue, it was a real delight to the palate. Slight sweet yet salty and with just hints of nam yue (many people find this an acquired taste, but trust me it is just a slight complement here). This dish is also a darling to eat wrapped in fresh lettuce, but first slathered generously with tim cheong (sweet sauce). I once asked where to get the tim cheong and my Lai Ma said “Aiya, make it yourself. Very easy! Put this this and that that together, and ta-da – you got your ultimate tim cheong”. Sorry though I cannot remember those ‘easy’ steps, aih, they all make it sound so easy, time for me to buck up! I must start cooking and making more Chinese cuisines. This is definitely one better way to enjoy ngaku apart from the usual addictive fried ngaku crisps which are widely available (both homemade or store bought) at this time of the year.

I ate with such gluttony and tham jiak-ness that halfway through my feasting, Lai Pa took second helpings of rice and joined me together at the table. Now the real family feast has begun!

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Too Much of Good Things

Been back to my home town as I said I would, where every year relatives from near and far try their best to return because of both my grandmothers, Ah Ma and Pho Pho. Just for the reunion day itself, I had already indulged in so much food, here is just a glimpse of some of them that I managed to captured:

Yes, and that is just for PRE-Chinese new year. I wonder if my tham jiak tummy can take more to come. Anyhow, this is one case where too much of good things is still good, great even!

I wish you all Happy Chinese New Year, 新年快樂. Till we meet again after all the feastings and gamblings!

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A Long Weekend

and so I sat down to blog, and nothing seem to come out. I wouldn’t say I got a writer’s block; I can only say I got a tham jiak block. Oh no! Not so tham jiak anymore? Don’t worry, not everywhere near there, ha-ha, just that J and I have less time to go out and try new food, as work had been quite exhausting for both of us. When lunch/dinner comes, all we want is just to go somewhere near or somewhere familiar to just sit down, relax and enjoy ourselves. Don’t even get me started on what about cooking. I am still very much waiting for my new apartment to become mine, legal matters that involves many parties can never be fast, I learnt this the hard way. So there, with not much of food exploration and none on cooking, what is there worthy to blog about?

Fortunately though, Chinese New Year is just around the corner and I am eagerly waiting in anticipation. Chinese New Year is the time where we are reunited with families and friends, enjoying good food together while catching up on the year that has passed. There would be non-stop feasting and munching as well as the gambling. Ah, these are typical traits of the Chinese, and we does it best and most during this time. I had been gambling with RM1 ever since high school, and it never went up even though judging from my increase spending power plus the inflation rates I should, but age has caught up with me and now gambling is more of just to pass time than to earn money. I still remember that my friends and I used to go house to house collecting ang pows and then sat right down to ‘earning money’. Some year I had huge profits, some losses but most years are neither, so I did quite enjoy this way of passing the time.

So as Chinese New Year is just next week, I will be sure to head home to my beloved home town Taiping. I can’t wait, seriously. So I thought it would be best to blog a little about my humble home town. I have mentioned about it several times, but have lacked terribly in blogging about the good food it possessed. I assure you, it is as good as you would expect from a place shield from urbanization thus still very much prepare food the way it does few generations ago.

There is this place in Taiping where it serves really good authentic Hainanese food. The restaurant still cooks and serves like how it used to way before I was born. The place still looked pretty much the same, except I remember it did some clean up once and built the cashier place bout 10 years ago.

One extra special thing about it is that it serves halal food. I did not notice this of my years in Taiping, until after I came here to study, where one day a friend mentioned she brought her Muslim friend to dine there, stating it is the only choice for Chinese food around Taiping which is halal. Since it is halal, we definitely would not be able to find the infamous Hainanese pork chop, but guess what, it did extremely well in subbing with chicken chop Hainanese style. Prepared the same way, just with different meat, and it is still real good. Definitely a must order at this shop.

The chicken is cooked to the right crispiness, and then doused with the thick deliciously salty sauce with peas, tomatoes and onions. The potatoes wedges are definitely worth mentioning too, for being so well fried, non greasy, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Then there is one special dish that I love to order when I am there, and have yet to find it anywhere else in Malaysia. It is called roti sayur (bread and vegetables). Whenever I call this in front of someone who have yet to try it, they would definitely raise an eyebrow. “You want to eat bread with vegetables???” must be going through their mind. That was how J reacted when I ordered it. Then it came, really different looking with sautéed vegetables lying over a thick toast bread with a sunny side up egg on top, bringing to whole dish to new heights, catching the eye of the raised eyebrow.

This dish certainly need some coaxing to people before they are wiling to try it, after all we Chinese/Asian are not that used to eating savoury vegetables with bread, but this one definitely converted many after just one try. J nodded in agreement to it when I passed it for him to try, while I devour his chicken chop. The vegetables were still pretty crunchy, yet soft enough along with the peas and onions are of great combinations. Mixed in with the slightly sweet yet savoury soft bread (from soaking the sauces), it wss certainly a good match. Not to forget smashing the egg yolks as you go, I don’t need to explain why, eh?

Lastly I finish off with my ever good ol’ cham(mixture of coffee and tea). The cham here is just as good as I can get as it is kau (thick) enough.

Alright, so now you know we have good Hainanese food in Taiping, so do drop by if you are ever in north Malaysia, maybe drive up a little from Ipoh, or make a pit-stop on the way to Penang. It is definitely not a bad place for good food.

Yut Sun Restoran
Jalan Pasar
Perak, Malaysia

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Comfort Food from Home

Alright, what is this naughty girl doing here when she is supposed to be studying? Well, she just misses her blogging life and intended to at least post something. I have just tackled the first paper this morning, and hopefully I’ve done well, I wrote till my hand got sore. That should be good news right?

Anyway, mum had just bought a yummy biscuit made in my home town, Taiping, which she had dad brought up to KL for me. My dad works here and he travels back fortnightly. I’ve tried biscuit before, and had an almost addictive liking to it, which I “naturally” mentioned to mum, and so, she bought 2 boxes for me this time! Thank you mum!

It is just what I needed, a non-homemade-as-I-do-not-have-the-time comfort food to fight the exam blues.

Gula Melaka Biscuits

It's a sort of biscuit, with thick floury and buttery skin, wrapped around gula melaka, which is already all chewy and sweet. It has good combination of texture and taste which just have your hands keep crawling back into the box for more! By the way, the box is really cool, it has the picture of the Taiping lake garden at the top.

Now, I have to stop ranting or I’ll start to sound like a girl gone mad from studying, back to where I belong now, the books!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Myriad of Tastes for CNY

Back from missing in action. Chinese New Year had been a blast this year. As usual, I will be back in my hometown, Taiping and celebrated with family and friends.

As I am getting back on track from my holiday mood to my working routine, time is slipping away pretty quickly. As for now, I’m leaving you guys with pictures of the wonderful tummy-filled CNY celebration that I had. Enjoy!

Pho Pho (mum's mother) shredding the pre-soaked black fungus

Loh Hon Chai (Fried Mixed Vegetables)

My absolute all time favourite Jiu Hu Char (Stir fried shredded Cuttlefish with Yam Bean)

Another Stir Fried Mix Vegetables with Chinese Mushrooms

Live crab waiting to be cooked. We Chinese only eat the freshest from the sea.

Cooked Crab in Tomato Sauce, a little kick from ginger, spring onion and chillies

Steamed chicken, a must have for every Chinese household on reunion

The steamed chicken chopped and served sprinkled with chinese parsley

My aunt chopping the boiled pork tripe from the soup to bite sizes

Taking out the steamed fish (fresh from the sea too)

Pho Pho enjoying the food while waiting for the fish to steam

Yee Sang - We have it every year over at my mother's side, whenever we can meet up either the reunion day or Chor Yat/Chor Yee (first/second day of Chinese New Year). This Yee Sang of ours is self made, with the carrots and radishes freshly sliced thinly (no shredding as it will sweat too much) and then Pomelo freshly shred to pieces. The hues of greens and beige stripes are papaya pickles. In the middle is our main ingredient of the dish – abalone slices. The red packets contained Five Spice Powder and crushed peanuts ready to be sprinkled over the Yee Sang later.

Once ready to serve , crispy dough crackers are scattered all around the dish. Next the spices and peanuts are sprinkled over follow by pouring of plum sauce over it. We would then gear ourselves with chopsticks and then simultaneously toss the Yee Sang all over. As belived, the higher you toss the better. We usually end up with bits and pieces on our hand due to the crazy tossing by everyone.

Then all of proceed to scoop everything out onto our bowls and devour it. We would of course aim for the abalones but at last, we would end up distributing to each other anyway. The Yee Sang definitely tasted good, with fresh ingredients, right plethora of tastes of sweet and sour plus right textures of soft, chewy, crunchy and juicy all together. I looked forward to it every year. If you want to know more about this, Foodcrazee have an extensive information on his own deconstructed Yee Sang.

Overall, a lovely Chinese New Year, with jeans a little tighter, wallet a bit fatter (from all the Ang Pows), heart a little fonder and of course, smile a little wider!

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Exploring My Origins: Egg Tarts

I am a Chinese, inside out. My mother and father, and both their father’s mother and so forth are all Chinese. In other words, I am a typical Chinese. My mother’s father, came directly from China, during the time many immigrants flocked here to seek a better life. Coincidently, my mother’s mother came to Malaysia in the same way, save maybe in a much later date. As for my father’s side, it was my great grandfather who also came from China to do business.

I am also, a Taiping ‘kia’ (the word is in Hokkien for child), inside out. I said this because both my parents were born and bred in Taiping, including my father’s mother. Same goes for me.

Taiping is a town located up north in Perak, Malaysia. The word itself Taiping meant “Eternal Peace”. As I remember from my studying of history, the name was given to signified the end of the feud between Ghee Hin and Hai San, two prominent gangster (like those in Hong Kong “ku wak chai” movies) at that time. Taiping was also known as “rain town” as it is the wettest town in Malaysia. I for one can testify to that when various times, my basketball practices and plays were canceled due to rainfall. Especially when it is the rainy season, the downpour is so huge; you cannot drive safely on the road. Anyway, I tried it and I swear, I felt like a blind man driving. Well, due to the wetness, we had a beautiful lake in town, with rain trees arching over the road, as they reached over for the water. Check it out over at Taiping Talk or Worldisround for wonderful pictures of my beloved home’s lake. This lake was a produce of the abandon tin ore mines. Quoted from NST:

“Often overlooked is the lake gardens' history. It is said to be the oldest lake gardens in Malaysia, opened to the public in 1880”

There is so much to talk about this hometown of mind, and I will bit by bit introduce it you readers. I had numerous pictures from Taiping, food especially, go figures, to share with you guys. I’ll be going back to Taiping this weekend, for my Grandmother’s birthday (I am also thinking of baking a cake for her, look out for it as it would be butterlees and milkless, my Grandma cannot stand dairy) and I promise to get more food pictures from town.

As for now, my subject is about my Chinese origins. I had intend to further explore food from my origins, due to inspiration from Barbara from Tigers & Strawberries, where she wrote a lot of thought provoking articles of how to appreciate Chinese cuisines and its various forms and arts.

So I had decided to make something created in Chinese cuisine, and came up with baking egg tarts. It was an absolute hit in my house. I referred to a recipe at KC yet again, and had modified the fillings. According to Wiki, egg tart is a type of pastry from Chinese cuisine. It was created during the time British colonized Hong Kong. SeaDragon from Café of the East had a nice write up bout how the word came about. You can also see the picture of how an egg tart looks like in Wiki, although the crust I made was not those flaky ones. I ran over the recipe to do the flaky crust and was at first afraid of the procedure of combining water and short dough together, something like how you would do puff pastry. Then dignified, I wanted to try it but then was once again put off, this time for the amount of butter involve! It doubles the amount I would have use for a normal crust, like those you would have in tarts. Therefore, I resort to making the pie crust instead.

Last time when I was young, I did not know how to enjoy egg tarts, maybe because my family seldom buys it anyway. Then came Portuguese egg tarts to town, these tarts are from Macao origin, neighbour to Hong Kong, and the crust was superbly puffy and the filling is extremely rich and thick. Alas, I have yet brave enough to make this favourite of mine, I might when one of these weekends I’m geared enough. Anyway, now that Portuguese egg tarts had ignited my interest in egg tarts, I decided to make one at home. Although, it would be completely different from my favourite type, normal crust with simple filling, I found this recipe a keeper as the crust was just at the right crunch and the filling was smooth and tasty, much unlike the watered down ones outside. Do give it a try, even with any pie crust you have. After all, it is just egg custard in pie crust. Ah, the beauty of simplicity.

Egg Tarts

I had discovered a really genius way to make the tart crust! Alright maybe not really genius or maybe everybody does it but it just came to me (the light bulb effect again) to use the rolling pin to flatten it first and then cut it out with a mug. Yes, you heard me right, a mug which you use to drink your hot cocoa from, as it would create a size just slightly smaller than the tart cases.

Remember to roll it just thin enough, press mug to the flatten dough, softly lift the cut out piece and place onto the tart case. Push up the sides to meet the ends. I also found that once baked, the crust will shrink slightly, therefore for my second batch, I had pinch the crust slightly higher than the sides and it will shrink to perfect size. Another reminder is to watch it while it baked so not to over done it resulting in cracks (it was told by a forum member). When done, the custard might be slightly jiggly in the middle, and not to worry as it will harden once cool.

Ingredients crust:
125g butter at room temperature
225g flour
1 egg white (leftover from the egg filling)
1 tsp vanilla essence

Sift the flour and then rub in the butter with your fingers till crumb-like.
Add egg and vanilla essence.
Then knead it to form dough.
Take a portion out of the dough, flatten it with a rolling pin.
Cut out in round shape, and press it into the tart moulds, using your fingers to push up the sides and evenly into the zig-zag shapes.
Preheat oven to 180C.
Bake the tart crust for 10mins.

Meanwhile get ready the egg filling:
80ml (1/3 C) water
80ml (1/3 C)ml fresh/UHT milk
4 tbsp sugar or to taste (depending on your milk sweetness)
juice from 1 lemon slice (1 tbsp lemon juice)
4 egg yolks and 3 egg whites

Put water and milk into saucepan and heat it till nearly boiled.
Then add in sugar and whisk it till dissolved.
Add the lemon juice and remove from stove, set aside to cool.
Beat the eats lightly and filter it through a sieve.
Combine the eggs with the prepare sugar and milk water, set aside.
Pour egg mixture into crust and bake at 180C for about 10 - 15mins.
Once cool enough, remove it from the cases with thongs (I just used my hands), it will dislodge easily
Place on the cooling rack.
Devour it while still slightly warm and be surprised how wonderful it is.

Makes 12 egg tarts

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