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Tham Jiak: January 2008
Tham Jiak means in some way "love to eat" in Hokkien. I am a Malaysian Hokkien and truly love to eat.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Accidentally In Love

Still posting of last year’s (long, long ago) eat, on the way back from the urban escape at Port Dickson, we stopped by Seremban for lunch. Before, I was having a real bad time, as our dear friend’s car air-condition had decided to break down during our trip, and I am not kidding you when I say driving in Malaysia during mid-day is like being slow roasted in an oven for a really mushy lamb stew. Come to think of it, I should have brought a pot of stew along; maybe we would have a nice stew when we got home. So when we finally turn into Seremban, we took a few rounds circling nearby the market, following another friend’s car and unable to find parking. I was already cursing inside and ready to kill the nearby lambs beside me if we do not stop anytime soon. Finally, my friend parked at the next available space; he had to do a sudden park as there were lambs screaming “park there, someone coming out, THERE!”

So we all stumbled out of the car breathing for fresh air and the hot breeze of our Equator’s neighbouring country. Alright, with head a little clear, we decided to walk to find the other friend’s car, who managed to park by the market, but as we walked down the street, we realized it was impossible to reach (possible, but not at this heat with our half-cooked bodies), so we decided to fall back to a shop we just passed by. We called to ditch our the other group of friends and settled down at Kedai Kopi Saudara (brothers and sisters coffee shop).

As I was just happy to eat anything at that time, still pretty full from the morning’s Nasi Lemak at Port Dickson, I decided to just order my trusty kaya toast with half-boiled eggs. Then J’s chicken rice came, and I instantly regret again I did not order it! Why? Because this one came with seriously juicy looking steamed chicken and to top it off, the rice is the infamous rice ball, a specialty very much sought after in Melaka.

I stared at it showing my tham jiak face, so much so, J ordered another portion of chicken with two more rice balls, such a sweet understanding tham jiak partner. So greedily I eat the perfect rice ball with the sweet juicy and flavourful chicken. To say it was delicious seemed like the understatement of the year, or maybe last year, eh don’t kill me for that overused term. The rice was really fragrant of chicken stock and spices, and then nicely rolled into a ball, not too sticky yet just sticky enough to be able to nestle as mini bites at the brink of chopsticks. Ah, perfect! Although I have never been an avid fan of chicken rice, and had a bad experience with the Melaka’s version of chicken rice ball before, I felt that I had accidentally found the one! I must also mention that the accompanying chili sauce was also really good, the real authentic sour, spicy and gingery sauce that goes so well with steamed chicken. I guess J’s and my tham jiak face truly shone as my friend was attracted into ordering as well, on top of his finished noodles.

The owner, seeing us as true blue tham jiak kaki (gang), after all we ordered one after another from J’s first one portion; decided to drop by our table for some chat. He introduced himself as Kevin, much to our surprised, in fluent English. Then he mentioned nonchalantly that his rice balls and steamed chickens were authentic Hainanese fare; the best in town, claiming that people from all over came here purposefully just for his carefully prepared meal. Judging from our face, he knew we would return, which we definitely would, thus he also mentioned that he had another branch just around the next street, and on some days he might close here but we can find him over there instead. We were feeling bit kiasu (fear of losing), that we might miss him if we ever drop by again, so we asked him to please write down his address, which he did along with his hand phone number, how’s that for good marketing?

So there we ended our meal, I did not take enough pictures as I was first too excited in ordering and then too busy in enjoying the food. Oh, I nearly forgot I had ordered toast bread and eggs, when it came a little later after we devoured our Hainanese meal, so I shared the bread and gulped down the eggs like a good kid. In a dimmer light, but for the benefit of the cook, I must say the bread was well toasted, egg half-boiled to just right (I hate it when it was uncooked or too well cooked) and the white coffee was just the right drink to end a wonderful meal. Ah, bliss. In fact, we lambs were even smiling blithely as we boarded the oven again.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Healthy Food Anyone?

How many of you have sworn to eat healthier for this year? Wow, so many hands? How many of you have eat healthier, eat lesser, exercise more, lose weight, get fitter or something of its like in one or all of your new year resolution(s)? Wow, even more hands? Especially with the Christmas and New Year holiday just passed us by, many of us are still carrying the excesses in our bodies. For us Chinese, we are dreading (or secretly rejoicing) for the coming Chinese New Year which meant more indulgences, snacks and extravagant meals to come. I bet we are already imagining the scale needle moving towards the right.

So let’s all try to eat a little healthier for this month, to shed the excess of last year’s indulgence while for us Chinese to prepare for the upcoming unavoidable feasting just around the corner. Just thinking of the tuin nim fan (reunion dinner) on the night before the Chinese New Year, I can already visualize a table kept filling with rich dishes one after another like where can only have it in special occasions.

Last year (I am still enjoying using that reference of as if long, long ago which could also just mean few weeks ago), Q and I went for a late lunch due to some unexpected circumstances, I would not want to mention here what it was as she might give me a knock on the head again. So, after the unexpected occurrence, I was feeling hungry as I haven’t had my lunch yet and since it is on the way back home, we dropped by Sri Hartamas for some healthy Korean jook (congee) at Bonjuk.

I read about this place once at KY (I seem to have read about many places there or have KY eats at all the places that could be eaten already?), since then I had always wanted to drop by to try it out. I am the type who are always in for some healthy food, the type who is eager to check out the organic shop and the type who would hop over to see what the fuss is all about some new healthier version of an old classic. I am also the type who would be attracted to a tweaked healthier version of a recipe, the type who would sneak in healthier alternative when she cooks or the type who would not resist having any healthy desserts (there are actually such foods). I usually would not bring J for such healthy options as for a big ravenous guy like him jook would not fill him enough, what more healthy jook? Luckily this time, I have Q to bring along to indulge (pun intended) that healthy part of me.

Bonjuk’s interior was simple and clean, and since it was at weird hour, neither lunch nor dinner, so it was pretty quiet with just another table of a mother and her son. We sat down and were served the menu immediately. We were spoiled many choices of healthy jook to choose from and if you are interested on it, do hop over at their website and read through all the choices and its nutritious benefits. Note: I have just checked, their website is currently down, do check back next time.

I ordered octopus and kim chi jook, as I have always been a fan of Korean kim chi (Korean fermented vegetable). It came in a striking orange hue, which had Q looking at it wide eyed; I was already salivating by then. It had a pretty unique taste, slightly spicy, slightly salty with hint of kim chi and sweet with the generous chewy octopuses. It was also mixed in with sesame seeds and seaweeds. It seemed to be made up of all the food that I like, healthy too I might say.

Q ordered shrimp jook, which was generous with prawns and chopped carrots and vegetables. It was also sweet and salty, with the right blend of tastes. The jook here are cooked with small grain rice that still have some bite to them, yet already in the form of stickiness. It was certainly a well cooked jook.

The nice thing is that each jook came with a set of side dishes, which can be refilled to one's heart content; I did a few times! There were kim chi, though not the best I have tasted but for kim chi I am all for no matter how. Then there were the salted meat slices which were dangerously addictive and go really well with the jook. There was also a paste which I am not sure what of, but it was a bit spicy with hints of garlic. The final side dish was a bowl of soup which Q found really odd as it was more on the sweet side, yet it was suppose to be a savoury version as it had daikon and and chili in it, the most special part is that it was served chilled, with crushed ice. I found it quite a palate cleanser thus enjoyed it pretty well but Q stayed away from it. I guess indeed it was an acquired taste, and I believe I do have trained my tham jiak tongue to acquire many tastes, textures and temperatures in this case.

We washed it all down with green teas; mine the Korean rice green tea while Q, not such a fan of ‘ricey' green tea ordered the plain one. I guess it was an acquired taste too?

The food was indeed good, filling and most of all healthy. Bonjuk claimed that their foods are made to order and as fresh as can be. After the meal I was still satiated late into the night, not feeling quesy(yes I have a sensitive stomach) or hungry easily. Instead I felt fresh! So thumbs up for a filling yet healthy meal and I would certainly go again whenever I have a chance out with girl-friends that are also the type who join in the healthy hype.

18, Grd Flr, Jln 25/70A,
Desa Sri Hartamas
50480 Kuala Lumpur
03-2300 2302

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Of Black Sea and Fatty Rice

I mentioned that I had a weekend getaway last month, taking advantage of the long weekend where everyone seems to be on holidays which are from Christmas to New Year’s day. I took two days off in between and voila, I have a break of 6 days consecutively (including weekends). So a bunch of us took the opportunity and brave the traffic and the crowd to Port Dickson, down south in Negeri Sembilan, not for the beach but just for the sake of getting out of the city.

Why not the beach? Oh well Port Dickson is a famous beach side stop for most locals in KL and its neighbouring towns, so much so that now it is to the brink of I-would-not-swim-in-it-for-the-life-of-me level. Anyhow, as it is just an hour drive from the city, many still return there for a short urban escape. There are still some preserved beaches by resorts that are still beautiful; I had a team building once from my previous company at one of the posh resorts where the sands are still soft and the sea is still blue. For most of the other commercial hotels though, the sands are black and the sea is of deep murky all-sorts-of-color, and that is when I have not even talk about the common beach yet. Let’s not go there, literary or not. So if you ever plan to come to Malaysia and her beach, try Pulau Redang instead; I went there for a holiday once and I felt that I had been to a place where people featured in postcards. Its difference with Port Dickson was like heaven and hell. It does no justice to Malaysia tourism if you come to Port Dickson for the beach. Let Port Dickson stay as our locals’ desperate getaways or just lazy holidays.

Since it is non-touristy like, there are still many locals that are still around, who should be smart enough to stay out of the beach. So early in the morning, J and I walked out of our Glory Beach Resort, down the street to the nearby shop houses in search for food. Beside the main road, before the shop houses, we found a stall selling our Malaysian most famous breakfast, Nasi Lemak (fatty rice), which is actually rice cooked in coconut milk and pandan leaves and usually served with sambal
! The stall was run by a little family of grandmother, daughter and son. I was so excited to have this food find, as it is rare for us to eat at these kinds of stalls, where the food is home made by a grandmother through her years of well experienced cooking. The food would be true Negeri Sembilan (the state) style, untainted by advancement or fusion of any kind. This would be just the way I like it.

I ordered Nasi Lemak with something very similar to
Ayam Masak Merah (red cooked chicken) which is actually chicken cooked with chilli and tomato. The rice is fluffy, not superbly lemak (fatty from the coconut milk) yet still very aromatic of coconut and pandan leaves. The sambal was really spicy; a great kick for a chili lover like me and the chicken was fantastic. I am not kidding you here. It had been such a long time since I get to eat good home cooked Malay food.

As for J, he ordered the same as mine with extra of Beef Rendang. Oh wow, a taste at his rendang and I instantly regretted not ordering it as well. It was thick, full of spices and with that something extra I could not seem to identify. So I stole a few more spoonfuls and then I bit into it, cockles! Yes, this rendang is cooked with cockles and I was surprised it went so well with the rendang as well as the chicken. Whether this is the Negeri Sembilan style, or south style, I wouldn’t care less now as I know where to find it the next time. Or maybe I can use this idea if I ever cook up another beef rendang.

Finally we finished off with a nice kopi tarik, prepared the same was as the ubiquitous
teh tarik, where the hot drink is poured from cup to cup, pulling (tarik) it really high each time, to cool the hot drink to the right temperature while creating a frothy drink. We had this courtesy from the ‘son’. Certainly different from the usual Chinese coffee shop taste, but still gives a good kick and a nice variety to my usual coffee regime.

Ah, then with our empty tummy filled, and having our fast broken, we walked back cheerily to our resort.

The stall by the road side,
Before the Glory Beach Resort
Batu 2, Jalan Seremban
Tanjung Gemok
7100 Port Dickson
Negeri Sembilan
West Malaysia

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Gypsies Seafood Fare

Finally, my guest blogger is back in action! Some of you might still remember her from reviews from up north in Penang, as well as the few food hunts I had with her. So as we know that now she is in KL, it seems this time she brought a food review all the way from East Malaysia. Let’s see what she brings for us:

I was in East Malaysia for my wonderful year end holidays. As shocking as I am trying to comprehend it myself, it was my third time there this year. 2007 had certainly been an eventful year for me – to graduate, start working and learning to live on my own while assuming bigger responsibilities.

Anyway, it’s about time I write this post for Tham Jiak as it has certainly been awhile. I owe this post to my good friend, rokh, whom I constantly recount my interesting eating experiences with, but never blog about, because of the absence of my camera. Now that it is back with me, I hope to get back to the active blogging cycle again.

If you have been to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, you would probably have trawled the Filipino market, also known as Kota Kinabalu Handicraft Market. Located along Jalan Tun Fuad Stephens, right across Sinsuran Complex, it is renowned for fresh, baked seafood. Anyone whose palate waters up upon the sight of fresh and baked, humongous seafood will be an instant convert when you are here.

This is probably my favourite place to have dinner whenever I am in KK. The Filipino market sells everything from handicraft to food, and by sundown, locals and tourists will have a variety of food to have for dinner.

Locals usually come here for the cheap seafood fanfare if compared to Chinese seafood restaurants. Walk further into the market and you will see make shift stalls lined up with tables and stools at the side for dine-in patrons. Inspect closer and you will notice that each stall serves an almost homogenous menu. Though that may be the situation, some stalls may have an extra item compared to the next, so do observe. A seafood fan will go berserk to see the variety of fishes, prawn, crab and squid that are lightly baked and marinated with sambal because I do whenever I am there!

All you have to do is choose the seafood that tempts you well and the vendors will proceed to re-bake them before serving them to you. Opt to have your seafood with white rice or on their own, either way, it’s an experience to savour.

My dining experience at the Filipino market stretched an extra mile when I was with my company. Like they say, eat like the locals when you are with the locals. My company who has ¼ Filipino blood in him explained that, he comes from a family lineage of sea gypsies. Living in the sea fine-tuned seafarer resourcefulness. Thus, anything edible is a gem.

It is the original sea gypsies’ recipe to have rumpai laut with baked seafood. He shows me plastic containers stacked on the tables containing ingredients I have never seen in my life. There are slimy seaweeds, one type, yellowish, the other, dark green seaweed on stalks with round buds for leaves. Both are known only as rumpai laut (seaweed), the locals treat them like vegetables to their meal but not before, a little D-I-Y mixing.

So how should you do it?

Squeeze one or two limes, shred some cili padi and pour some soy sauce in accordance to your preference, and this will be the add-ons to your concoction of seaweed. You can also choose to add on fresh/uncooked ikan bilis marinated with lime.

The baked seafood, though garnished with an aromatic blend of chilli, onions and garlic, may not necessarily exude enough taste like how it looks. So, you have them alongside your D-I-Y concoction for extra flavouring!

My weakness for seafood, particularly squid is satisfied here but most of the time, the serving is so incredibly huge, I can never finish them. Nevertheless, I find myself, wanting to go back, whenever I want to have seafood.

So, don’t miss out the Filipino market when you are in KK and do try to eat like the gypsies!

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Malaysia Flogger #5: Kampung Boy City Gal

Wow, time sure flies especially when you are having fun, and even more so when you are in a routine. Am I making sense here? Anyway, what have I been doing every since my last post of year 2007, saying goodbye to so many good eats, and now saying hello (hopefully) to even more good eats? Well I had been trying to upgrade this little blog of mine, nothing big, did not have my own domain yet, but I have just upgraded the blogger template to the new version (yes, finally!) and the only reason is because I found that the old one had limitations to only 20 posts per label and with no ‘older posts’ link to see more. So there I prayed, I clicked and then I swore (pardon me); I had to do some major repair after that to have back all the links and so forth that I had coded in HTML one by one (yes, I am a geek) and then phew, it looked pretty much the same again now. One thing though, I am in the midst of getting a new layout, new look, new feel, after all my blog is now in its 3rd year, and like kids where 3rd year is their ripe age of discoveries and tantrums (no, I do not have kids and don’t ask me how I know about this), where usually a change is inevitable. So look out for it, I can’t say when knowing my crazy work schedules and my ever procrastinating self.

Speaking of new look, new feel and new domain, Malaysia's very own sweet couple, Kampung Boy and City Gal had just shifted to their own ‘home’, so it is the best time for the Malaysia Floggers interview again! Since the time they started up till now, 2 years later I am still very much in awe with their sweetness and love. They are practically the best food blogging couple, or maybe in every other category as well, for their dedication to each other as well as their passion for food, of course. Just by their name, explaining the boy from the ‘kampung’ (village) and the girl from the city, two really different people, enjoying the same passion for food and now sharing it with the world. Nearly everyone in the Malaysia food blogging scene, bloggers and readers alike, know this amicable couple well and look forward to more of their drool-worthy posts. Oh, I also had to mention that their frequent posts on Ipoh dim sum had me hankering to try it ever since their first introduction two years ago, where it had me every time ‘plan’ to leave Taiping early before going back to KL to stop by Ipoh for dim sum, though it had yet to happen, but I guess maybe the next trip? Anyway, not to wait any longer, read on for the interview I did with City Gal and then right after, head on to their new blog site to enjoy the new stuffs, I personally love their dramatized ‘about us’ page:

1. Tell us a bit bout yourself - name, background, born and bred, work/study, dreams or plans

Citygal is an Ipoh girl in her early 20s that loves to eat, think, dream, crave and devour food, has an infinite wish list with wishes such as more money, bigger boobs, latest gadgets, etc. She is also the one who does the writting and reply to every single comments of you faithful readers.

Kampungboy is an “Anak Kampung”from Kuala Terengganu, in his early 20s, living by the motto of “sek dai hei fook” (eating is a true blessing). With the artsy gene in him, he is the person behind these great shots that makes one drool.

2. Age old question, what got you into blogging, besides the love of food of course
Exactly two years ago, our very first post on Kuala Terengganu steamed keropok lekor was born.....Till now, the passion of blogging is still growing strong. We believe that our passion shines through our posts and pictures.

3. How long have you been food blogging?

We have been doing this for two years and apparently we are celebrating the second anniversary of KampungboyCitygal on the 30th of December (two days later) in our new home http://kampungboycitygal.com/

4. What has food blogging bring/done to you?

We made a lot of new friends along the way. Makan outing with the floggers and readers is simply awesome and carefree.

5. Who/what got you obsess with food/cooking?

My parents are very adventurous in scouring food around that I have developed the love for food since a very young age. I love to have the more adventurous accompaniments, like sheep’s stomach or pork blood to be in my bowl of noodles and rice too.

6. What is one food you always wanted to try/cook/bake but have yet to do so and why

100% homemade fish ball without salicylic acid added to increase its palatability. KampungBoy’s mum can make impeccable bouncy and springy fish ball but it requires a lot of hard work. We were so determined to get some fresh fishes from the market, scrap the flesh off, and throw the fleshes against a hard surface to work it into glue with a strong forearm. Hmmm maybe one fine day we’ll do it, one fine day……

7. List some food blogs that inspires you or got you hooked

I used to be a big fan of
http://masak-masak.blogspot.com and http://foodcrazee.blogspot.com/ before I started my own blog. I still check on their blog regularly but my latest addictions would be http://awhiffoflemongrass.blogspot.com/ and http://ugwug.blogspot.com/

8. What would be your one comfort food that will sure brighten the day?

A good plate of nasi lemak with the usual condiments like sambal, fried ikan bilis, chicken, cucumber slices and egg. The rice has to be aggregated loosely together, instead of wet and clumpy. Of course the killer factor would be the fiery red and thick sambal sauce!

9. Sweet or savoury?

Both!! Citygal is a sucker for sweet stuff where all her meals need to be ended with a cup of good ol’ coffee or sinful desserts. Kampungboy loves all thing savoury, especially soupy dishes.

10. Name one food addiction and tell us how you go about it (avoiding/indulging/making/sharing).

Ipoh Dim Sum it is. We would make a trip back to Ipoh to satisfy our dim sum cravings every now and then.

11. One Malaysian dish you can't do without and why

Nasi Lemak. Can you imagine life without nasi lemak? The triangle shaped delight that we can have it for breakfast, lunch, tea, dinner and supper.

12. Name one cuisine you love and would need a fix for now and then

Tom Yam with its unique sour and spicy taste, pronounced chilli flavor and fragrant herbs is simple irresistible. It is a great cure whenever one of us is down with flu.

13. Tell us your favourite post of all time - favourite recipe/food review

My first attempt on curry fish head -
http://kampungboycitygal.blogspot.com/2007/04/my-first-attempt-on-curry-fish-head.html. It is so not me because I find it hard to drag myself into whipping up a dish that requires a lot of work. Eventually I did it and I’m fairly happy with the outcome.

14. Some advices for the budding or new food bloggers in Malaysian scene

I would like to reiterate my appreciation for the effort you all are doing on behalf of those of all the food lovers out there. Keep up the good work. Enjoy eating as much as we do and be passionate about it.

15. Drop a message for your readers and the food fans out there

Thanks for dropping by and leaving comments. You guys are the main factor that keeps us going on. Our passion for food blogging is continuously fueled by you guys.

16. Share with us a must make recipe/a must eat place (send along a picture if available)

Do try out the sinful butter crabs at Wong Poh Aman Suria -
http://kampungboycitygal.com/?p=240 and not to forget our all time favourite Foh San Dim Sum, Ipoh - http://kampungboycitygal.com/?p=305
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