Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Dinner @ Retro Cafe & Grill

AT and I headed to Retro Cafe & Grill for dinner. This newly-opened shop is tucked away at Centrepoint 2 in Miri.

We arrived near 7.00 p.m. and there were already many people in and outside the shop, enjoying their dinner. We were met on arrival by Kelvin, whom I had corresponded with over Whatsapp on a few occasions. He greeted us warmly and ushered us into the shop. From where we sat, the open-concept kitchen was visible. We could see the Chef and his assistants at work.

I learned that the Chef was actually Kelvin's dad. He had vast experience as a chef, having previously worked in Australia and Singapore. He had also served as a Chef at Cafe Miri for many years before venturing out on his own. Retro Cafe & Grill serves mainly Western food ... and AT and I were both eager to try them out.

First of all, AT ordered a strawberry milkshake. I had a sip and I liked it. It was not too thick, and yet it was rich and creamy. I was glad that the strawberry flavour did not overpower, making the milkshake very pleasant to drink.

Yums milkshake

Kelvin was so kind to provide me 2 complimentary dishes. One was a mushroom soup, concocted from scratch.

 Lovely mushroom soup

I liked it because I found it to be rich and flavourful. You can tell by the size of the flavourful croutons garnishing the soup. Those croutons, eaten together with the hot soup was quite heavenly. Hidden under the smooth surface were lots of shredded oyster mushrooms ... and that was what made the soup so textural. The portion was also quite huge! I loved the soup and I would recommend this.

The next dish was a Char-grilled Chicken Chop.

What a large platter

There were 2 pieces of char-grilled chicken served with lots some greens, onions, crinkle cut potatoes, and carrots. A gravy was poured over the chicken upon serving. I found the chicken to be a little hard and I also did not quite like the gravy, finding it to be on the salty side. Perhaps it needed to be tweaked a little for a well-balanced flavour. The portion, again, was very generous, so this was NOT for a small eater. Lol.

AT wanted sirloin steak, and he wanted it well done. We waited quite long for this dish ... and I was glad that AT was quite cool about waiting. He did not throw a tantrum. :P

And well, I must say that the dish was worth waiting for. AT finished the whole platter, and it was not because he was starving. Lol.

Sirloin Steak

The steak was very thick, and though well done, it was not hard. I also appreciated the natural sweetness of the meat, with the minimal use of seasonings. I also liked the sides, especially the medley of pan-fried vegetables with just a hint of aromatic herbs. 

To end the meal, I ordered ice-cream .... 

Banana Frisbee

What can go wrong with ice-cream? Lol ... 3 flavours in the tall glass with banana and cream and chocolate sauce. It was indulgent indeed. :))

I had rather enjoyed myself over the meal, and I must once again thank Kelvin for his hospitality. RETRO opens from 11 am daily. Do check them out. 

Bamboo Clam Curry Stirfry

Bamboo or razor clams are rather popular and commonly served at seafood outlets. They can be served in or our of their shells.

Bamboo or razor clams

Sometimes, when Mom came across these clams at the market, she would be tempted to buy them .... That day, the clams were really large and really fresh. So Mom could not resist them.

Back home, Mom blanched the clams in hot water to separate the shells from the meat. Then, Mom cooked the clams with just a bit of curry powder ....

The clams were quickly stir-fried over high fire so that they would not be overcooked

Because the bamboo clams were really fresh, they were sweet and succulent, coupled with the aromatic spices, this was a great dish to eat with rice! Yums. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

Silken Soft Tofu

Tofu is a cheap and good source of protein. At the market, a large square of silken soft tofu sells for only RM0.90. But it's just that I do not quite like tofu because of its lack of taste. But precisely because of that, tofu easily absorbs the flavours of its accompanying ingredients, making it one of the most versatile food items to cook.

Mom learned this dish from SIL. SIL, in turn, had learned it from her mom ... it's her mom's signature dish.

 Tofu in garlic and oyster sauce

What was done was to blanch the tofu, and then to sautee garlic and shallots in oyster sauce. Pour the mixture onto the tofu. Before serving, pour in a pre-mix of chopped garlic, chillies in sweet and tangy vingrette. The result was a very savoury dish which was rather nice to eat with rice. I really liked it. 

Two days later, Mom bought more soft tofu, and I volunteered to cook it for her .... though I did not really really have in mind what I would do ... 

Hot & Spicy Tofu

What I did was also to blanch the tofu ... and then I cooked a pork mixture with hot bean paste and poured it over the tofu. I also added some Shaoxing wine and malt vinegar into the meat sauce .... hmn ... it tasted alright, but not great .... next time ... I think I would enhance the flavour with oyster sauce I think. I much prefer Mom's version. 

Anyway .... I could very well learn to eat and love tofu .... lol. 

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Ramen Lunch @ Sakae Sushi

Second Aunt and I brought the little nieces to Sando Ramen first, but the elder girl insisted that she preferred Sakae Sushi. Well, ok then. I did not mind where as long as they would be good girls and finished all their food for lunch. We jumped into the car and drove to The Spring ....

The girls have been to Sakae Sushi for countless of times, and were very familiar with the set up of this eatery. The elder girl had barely sat down when she tapped the iPad away to order her food. Geez, I had not even settled down yet!

Tea for Second Aunt and I

The little girls wanted ramen .... and ordered for all of us a bowl of Teriyaki Ramen each. 

Teriyaki Chicken ramen

Well ... the dish was garnished with chicken, spinach, half an onsen egg, kamaboko and deep-fried garlic. Nice colours .... there's brown, pink, white, yellow and green.  The noodle texture was good, and the soup tasted very prominently of garlic. I was not too impressed with the broth.

The kids finished all the noodles! But they did not like all the other ingredients and left them uneaten ...... Lol .... I'd have cooked them instant noodles at home, and it'll be just about the same thing right?

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Bubur Chacha

Bubur chacha is a coconut-milk based dessert, with steamed yams and sweet potatoes. It can be served hot or cold with shaved ice. It's up to the individual's preference ... but I actually like it served boiling hot. Not sure why, but I find the dessert more satisfying that way ....

At home, Dad is the one who cooks desserts ...... The sweet potatoes and yams were cleaned, diced and steamed. The sago pearls were soaked till they softened and cooked together with thick coconut milk and sugar. A few pieces of screwpine leaves lent a refreshing aroma to the coconut broth.

When the broth is ready, the steamed diced sweet potatoes and yams were added ......

Dad's Bubur Chacha

Yums ...... a sweet and satisfying end to a meal .....

Friday, December 27, 2013

Nasi Goreng Dabai

My neighbour came back for the holidays from Sibu, and she brought some some dabai ....


And I could not resist cooking some fried rice with these exotic fruits .....

 Looks good eh? 

Very easy to prepare it was, and it made a rather satisfying meal. :) 

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Yam Rice

My family loves yam or taro. They love the powdery texture and the earthy flavour of the tuber. Whenever Mom comes across yam at the market, she cannot resist. She has to buy a few pieces. And she loves to use yam in her cooking. Yam, when stewed with fish and leek lends a very rich flavour to the dish .... and when braised with soy sauce and pork absorbs the tasty flavours from the dish.

Mom came back from her morning walk and asked me whether I was interested in Yam Rice.

"Yes!" I replied enthsiastically. "I want it with pork belly ...... "

So we went to the market to buy some. 

 2 pieces of yam for RM4.80; It's RM10.00 a kg, considered a prized produce

Yam Rice is a traditional Teochew dish., whereby dices of yam are cooked together with the rice.

Yam dices

Accompanying ingredients can vary, but they generally include meat or preserved meats, mushrooms, dried prawns, and deep-fried garlic and shallots.

Accompaniments .... 

Yam rice

The result is a very savoury rice, infused with the flavour of yam and aromatics. It made a great one-dish meal. 

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Homemade Chicken Pies

I was reorganising Mom's kitchen cabinet .... and found 3 cans of tinned food near expiring date. There was a can of corn kernels, a can of button mushrooms and also a can of cream.

Let's make chicken pies, I told Mom.

At first, Mom disagreed .... she did not like to make things that were not planned. But in the end, she relented after I volunteered to cook the filling for her.

And I did too. I cut up all the ingredients - garlic, onions, carrots, chicken, and cooked the filling, seasoning it with just cream, black pepper and salt.

Mom made the pastry and then made little pies in paper cups.

Homemade Chicken Pie

The result was quite yum! Mom, who was quite reluctant in the first place, was happy that the pies turned out quite fine. We gave some to Second Aunt .... and were glad that she liked them. :)) 

Tuesday, December 24, 2013


What do you bring when you go out? Just on a quick grocery shopping trip? Who do you go out with usually?

Well, it was a Sunday evening. It was drizzling. I went to buy some necessities at the supermarket at the nearest mall. The Spring was my favourite mall, and I loved going there to shop or to hang out.

I parked at the outdoor parking area, just across the road. I had with me just my wristlet. Inside the wristlet was my phone, my money, my identity card and my driving license. The basics.

And they were snatched away from me by an unknown man.

I let out a series of screams while I gave a chase. But he was faster, no doubt. He snatched for a living after all. He ran out of the exit into the darkness .....

"He went there ....," a kind pedestrian told me, pointing to the back lane of the housing area.

I lingered .... and only then did I notice 3 security guards around me ... they couldn't do anything too.

It was 7.45 p.m. Not late. 

And I was not alone walking to the car. I was with my parents. And yet, such an incident could occur. What's the society becoming to? 

That night, I relived the incident for tens of times. Each time, it sent chills down my spine. I laid in bed, tossing and turning, fear embedded deep in my heart. It was very traumatising indeed.

All that's left of my beloved old phone .... 

I have since replaced my documents, and gotten myself a new phone. But I feel so insecure. It will take time for me to put the entire episode behind me. Sigh. So everyone there, do always be cautious with your belongings.

Merry Xmas! 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Retro Cafe & Grill, Miri

Of late, I had been wishing that there were more new eateries opening in Miri .... and I guess Santa did grant me my wish just in time for Christmas.

RETRO Cafe & Grill, located at Centrepoint 2  just opposite The Terminal, is set to serve up some good food to Mirians .... how exciting is that? The menu list includes a selection of pastas in tantalising sauces, mouthwatering oven-baked rice, juicy grilled meats, and even seafood delights.

RETRO will open its doors on 24 December, 3 pm onwards
Do drop by to check our their extensive menu 

Not free to dine in? Well, those planning a Christmas party at home may want to consider ordering some Christmas goodies from RETRO to whet your appetite? Here's a list of what there is to offer .....

For more information, do not hesitate to call them up to ask. Kev is really friendly, and I am sure he is more than happy and willing to assist. :P

Stewed Pig Trotters

People love this dish because of the gelatinous, melt-in-the-mouth quality of the substantial amount of bouncy, succulent skin. The old folks also say that this dish would do wonders for the skin, given it being rich in collagen and protein. So? Indulge!!

Except that I was fearful that it would too high in cholesterol, not to say, high in calories too. Fat!!!!

"I'm cooking Pig Trotters," said Second Aunt. "Later, I'll give you some."

"Oh no! Fat!!!" I exclaimed.

Second Aunt picked for me the leanest cuts. I'm so spoilt.

Stewed Pig Trotters

Still, I ate with caution, not really dare to eat too many pieces at one time.This pot was not "some" like Second Aunt said. It was A LOT. We ate this for two days! The pieces of pig trotters, seeped overnight, had fully absorbed the flavour of the fragrant soy gravy, giving the whole dish more depth in taste. The next day, Mom added some hard-boiled eggs to the stew ...... and that was delicious too. :P

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Yellow Tang Yuan For Dong Zhi

Tang yuan is glutinous rice balls. Traditionally, tang yuan is only eaten during festive seasons, birthdays or weddings. Tang yuan, served in a sugary broth, symbolises happiness and family togetherness. That's why it is considered a significant item during auspicious Chinese occasions. Nowadays, however, tang yuan is eaten all year round, in savoury soups or as desserts. One can even buy frozen filled ones. Those are simple to prepare by merely boiling them in water.  

At home, I will always be asked to eat tang yuan whenever comes the Winter Solstice festival or Dong Zhi (冬至). Eat tang yuan and you are now one year older, the old folks say. Precisely because of that, I always refuse to eat them. I am not not going to age myself deliberately ... and I am not a great fan of the rice balls anyway. 

This Dong Zhi, Mom decided to make tang yuan using sweet potatoes.... she mashed up steamed yellow coloured sweet potatoes and added glutinous rice flour. The result was great actually. The tang yuan had a natural yellow colouring, and tasted faintly of fragrant sweet potatoes. The texture was also good - not floury, but springy and chewy. 

Yellow tang yuan

Coupled with fragrant pandan sugar syrup, this year's tang yuan tasted great. I actually ate pieces more than usual!

Happy Dong Zhi to all! It's a rainy one here today ............ that means it's going to rain on the first day of the lunar new year. That's what the old folks say .... let's see whether this prophecy holds true.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Mitsu Tea House @ BDC

AT came over to Kuching, and we went for tea at Mitsu Tea House. It's one of his favourite hang-outs here. We sat outside the outlet along the corridor, though one could sit in the air-conditioned interiors of the shop.

There was an extensive menu here, but we chose to have light bites ....

Xiao Long Bao
Each mini bao was served in a foiled cup to hold it in place; I found the pastry to be just a wee bit thicker than I would like it to be, but still bearable, I would say. When I bit into it, the soup did spill out ... inside was not really compactly filled with minced pork but the filling was rather tasty though. We had our pastry with the accompaniment of malt vinegar and shredded ginger; We asked for MORE shredded ginger sans the malt vinegar ... but then our request was either misunderstood or disregarded. This outlet was really stingy with the ginger .. sigh.  Maybe should bring my own next time. 

Beancurd rolls
  I did not like this dish ... I found the filling to lack texture, and I also did not find the sauce to be pleasant

Custard Lava Steamed Bun
I quite liked this fluffy steamed bun; the pastry was soft and not too dense. But the filling was delicious - rich, slightly salty and not cloying sweet, and also in good consistency. Only that I did not really like the bright yellow colouring which I thought looked a bit artificial; They could have used something more natural .... 

Mango pudding and Guilingao
I did not eat these two desserts so .... no comment ... 

Well ... I would not say that the food here was really that impressive, though the ambience was quite alright. I did have quite a pleasant time catching up with AT over tea ... :)) 

Friday, December 20, 2013

Lunch @ Fu Yu Kopitiam, Sekama

We had wanted to go patronise IPH Roasted Cafe at Sekama, but the shop was closed.

So, we headed to the corner shop, Fu Yu Kopitiam for lunch. This is an award-winning laksa as written on the little pendant hung in front of the glass case. Well, it was the Top 50 best laksa award as bestowed by the Tourism Ministry for 2009/2010.

Fu Yu Kopitiam laksa, RM6.00 for special

Well, my bowl of laksa looked great! It had all the correct ingredients, and I particularly loved to see the green coriander garnishing the bowl as not many vendors used that anymore. Then,  I took a hearty slurp of the laksa gravy ... and I did not like it. I think the concoction of spices used in the gravy was not fragrant enough. Perhaps it needed a bit more of coconut milk to add to the sweetness. Hmn .... the stall might have cooked up some fantastic laksa back in 2009 for it to win an award. Perhaps its glory days are over. 

Curry Rice Special, RM8.00

I also ordered the curry rice special .... it looked great too, with lots of meat topping the rice. The portion was HUGE. There was the steamed white chicken, the braised pork belly and the char siew. I liked them all. Under the fried egg were a spoonful of cabbage stir-fry. However, the curry gravy needed lots of tweaking for it hardly tasted like curry. It was more like diluted curry water ...... I also found the rice to be too soggy. Mom, however, enjoyed the rice a lot. I guess some people did not mind a milder type of curry from time to time.

 Seafood Fried Kueh Tiaw, RM5.00 

The noodles were alright, but did not have enough wok-hei or wok's breath. In other words, not smoky enough in flavour. But Dad had liked this noodle stir-fry for years.

Well ...... I did not find lunch to be so great today .... but I MUST try IPH soon!!!

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Yu Zhi Xiang @ Stutong, Kuching

I had never expected to bump into this certain someone, but I did. For a brief second, my heart fell, my legs went weak, and all the grievous hurt that this person brought me flashed right through my mind. I felt sick in my stomach and I lost my appetite.

Too dramatic? Lol .... maybe ... but I was annoyed because I was actually on my way to lunch. :((

Fourth Aunt and I were at Yu Zhi Xiang, our first time here after hearing the other relatives raving about the delicious fish noodles sold at this particular eatery. So, how was I going to savour my food at the state that I was in? Not good.

Anyway .... Fourth Aunt and I ordered fish slices in milky broth ....; we wanted a mixture of fresh fish slices and deep-fried fish slices in our broth; Here at Yu Zhi Xiang, we could select our choice of noodles and even request for the noodles to be served separately. This was something different. Normally, elsewhere, only rice vermicelli would be used, and served in the broth itself.

 My rice vermicelli ... quite a large serving, with some minced pork on top and garnished with chinese celery; Fourth Aunt ordered kuih teow, served the same way; The fish broth was served separately

Alright .... the noodles were very tasty, as they were packed with the flavour of lard. Delicious indeed although it might seem plain. 

 The fish broth
The broth filled about more than half of the bowl; actually I thought it looked a bit sorry as I could not see the fish at all; perhaps they could resort to using a smaller bowl. 

Searching for the fish ...... 

Well, the soup was tasty, very umami and not overpowered by the milk; The ingredients were pretty standard, with the use of salted vegetable and tomatoes in the broth; this shop, however, added deep-fried pork rind to give it some extra oomph. It worked. :P

Now ... the fish slices .... the deep-fried fish slices looked and tasted more substantial than the fresh non-fried slices; there were also fish cake slices used; Fourth Aunt thought the fish cake tasted like "homemade" ones. I actually wished there were MORE fish and fish cake in the bowl.

The noodles and fish broth were in fact good enough to eat on its own, there was no need of any other condiments, but at this shop, I found the accompanying belacan to be irresistable! Do try it.

Smelt good and tasted even better ...

At RM10.50, I did feel that the price was a bit steep, unless there was MORE fish in my broth. :P Yuan Zhi Xiang's fish broth was more delicate if compared to the famous Woo Pin's in KL which I found to be more robust and hearty.

Woo Pin Fish Head Beehoon :

I did also like the clean and spacious area at the shop and the friendly staff. Yu Zhi Xiang is worth a try.

Sigh .... it's 4.30 a.m. ..... and darn the close encounter at lunch time for giving me a sleepless night. :((

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Question Mark Ice Cream

My 6-year old niece, A told me to buy her a "Question Mark" ice-cream.

Huh?? A "Question Mark" ice-cream?

Where do I buy that? I asked her.

Go to Petronas station-lah! she quipped.

Lol. Not knowing which ice-cream she was referring to, I really drove to the nearest Petronas gas station. I parked and then went into the convenience store and searched the 4 freezers for the "Question Mark" ice-cream.

And well ... yeah .... I found it.

It was in fact the Nestle Mat Kool ice-cream, and yeah ... there was a "Question Mark"on the wrapper, just like A said.

My niece's "Question Mark" ice-cream

Later on, I analysed the wrapper to see why there was a question mark there. Okie and it's like this. There were 4 flavours of ice-cream, namely vanilla, cream brulee, sweet corn and butter scotch. And the ice-cream was wrapped with a layer of pineapple jelly. Until you bit through the pineapple jelly, you would not know which flavour you had actually gotten. That's why there was a question mark there. Lol.

Nice? I asked A.

She nodded her head while sucking away the ice-cream .......

Kids are so cute. :))

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Wedding Reception Dinner @ Bangkok Thai Seafood Restaurant

Hmn ..... this restaurant is located at the ground floor of Lok Thian at Padungan; the place was so cramp .and could barely fit 20 tables, the food too was merely mediocre.
The cold dish was mediocre, none of the 4 items on the platter tasted particularly good; the mock sharks' fin served hot was pleasant and I quite liked the mango chicken just because there was coriander in the sour shredded pickled mango; but these food could be found easily at any stall at any food court .... I guessed I expected something more refined from the Bangkok Thai Restaurant
Steamed fish; the vegetables were the WORST dish of the night - bland and totally tasteless, yam basket - took a portion and ate only one bite before leaving it aside ... ; dessert was nice luckily .... custard lava deep-fried rice ball

I did not enjoy dinner much; most of my relatives agreed that dinner was a disappointment.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Wedding Lunch Reception @ Overseas Seafood Restaurant Kuching

The restaurant was located near the Kuching International Airport. Its official address was S/L 16, Kuching Square, Jalan Lapangan Terbang. It was opened at the end of last year .... so it would have been in business for over a year already!

My cousin K's wedding lunch reception was to be held here. It was a buffet lunch, and we would be using the function hall on the second floor.

 Darn. No pork. That was disappointment no. 1 for me.

We were the first to arrive, my aunts and uncles, my parents and I ...... we were ushered to the second floor. It was a large and spacious hall, so there was plenty of space for people to mingle .... and the kids loved running around the hall. There was a karaoke system in place, and the loud music liven up the celebratory mood indeed .... 

The food was served in large trays on 2 tables on one side of the hall .... and there was a tray of steamed white rice, followed by ... 

Stir-fried noodles 
Mom liked this dish and she ate lots; But I found it to be just alright.  

 Lemon chicken
The chicken was rather crispy, and the sauce was alright. So this dish tasted fine. 

Signature tofu
Later on, there would be a orange-pink coloured sauce poured over the tofu .... and to be honest, the tofu was much tasteless and the texture was floury. I took one bite and left the rest uneaten. 

Luo Han Cai
This dish was devoid of meat; I quite liked the soft and flavourful gluten seeped in the dark vegetarian sauce. Quite tasty. 

 Buttered prawns
The butter-flavoured prawns were not bad too .... 

 But everyone loved this simple dish of stir-fried celery and prawns .... ; the vegetables so refreshing and crunchy and the bouncy prawns were yums; 

My opinion? Well ... the food was a pretty standard fare. Some dishes were alright, and some were not. Overall, I was not so impressed.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

A Wedding In The Family

I'm rarely in Kuching for family occasions. This trip, however, coincided with my cousin K's wedding. Though he's my cousin, I had not seen him for more than 10 years! So I could barely recognise him in his pre-wedding photographs. Lol.

It's always exciting to have a wedding in the family. It's a time when the family reunites in merriment. Early in the morning, we went over to the house.

The red cloth flower above the door way, heralding good luck

Double happiness stickers on the wall

Old kerosene lamp
This kerosene lamp had been in existence since I was a child! So I was a bit fascinated with it on the offering table ..... 

A pair of chickens .... to symbolise good luck

Door gift for dinner reception
Inside the red pouch were a pair of chopsticks to signify longevity and a little bag of rice too

The bridal bouquet ...

The bridal car ...

We spent the entire morning at the family home .... I'd actually not been there for a while, so I took time exploring the house. It was also my childhood home, where I grew up. :)


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