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Thursday, October 31, 2013

Stirfry Baby Nai Bok Choy

That moment when I just felt like I needed lots of veges ....

Stirfry Baby Nai Bok Choy (奶白菜)

Hmn .... I was free this afternoon. So I headed to the supermarket. My tummy was calling for lots of vegetables. I needed my fibre, I guess. At the supermarket, the Baby Nai Bok Choy or Nai Bai Cai looked quite fresh. They cost RM2.00 per packet. 

This variety baby bok choy has a shade of dark green, curly leaves and white stems. They were supposed to be crunchier and sweeter than the usual Bok Choy. Back home, I stir-fried it with some carrots, pork belly, meat balls and an egg. And that was dinner. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

KFC

"Wanna eat KFC?" I asked.

"Let's go," Mom said.

Eh. How come, I thought. Mom would normally resist whenever I suggested eating out.

We both walked to the counter ...and Mom suggested I buy the Snack Plate, pointing to the menu board. 25% discount on Tuesday, it said.

"It's not available everyday, only on Tuesday....," I said.

"Today's Tuesday," said Mom.

Eh. She was right. I was the one who was blur, apparently. Lol.

"How come you know there's discount?" I surely did not know.

Mom saw the advertisement in the newspaper. It was not the first time she'd bought the Snack Plate on discount, I found out later.

Ahhh .. that explained it.

Snack Plate, Hot & Spicy chicken

We ordered 2 sets of Snack Plate. Each set consisted of 2 pieces of chicken, a bread roll, a coleslaw and a mash potato. One could have the Original Recipe fried chicken or the Hot and Spicy Chicken. I had one set of each.

Of the two, I found that the Hot & Spicy Chicken looked more presentable, and tasted better too. At that time, the Original Recipe Chicken looked somewhat soggy .... when it looked like that, of course, it affected my perception of its quality ....

* * *

I don't usually visit KFC, because I have had rather poor experiences with the quality of food served at a particular outlet in Miri, and also dealing with the staff at that same outlet left me feeling stupid. Those experiences really put me off for a long, long time. I was not inclined to visit the restaurant at all.

Two months back however, in KL, I went to a KFC outlet to take away some food for the family. It was dinner time, and it was really crowded inside the restaurant. Despite the crowd and the queues, the service was really efficient. I was served my food in about 10 minutes. I also enjoyed very much the food which I ordered - the rice made a very lasting impression, with its very pleasant lemon-y flavour. The chicken - both Original Recipe and Hot & Spicy - was nicely done as well.

Since KL, I had wanted to try the KFC outlets back home in Sarawak .....

* * *

This particular outlet which I had eaten the Snack Plate with Mom the other day .... hmn .... I thought the outlet looked old and dull. There weren't a single bottle of chilli sauce on the tables ..... we had to go ask for one from the counter. Were they out of stock? Or were they afraid that people would steal their bottles of chilli sauce? But most of all, I think they could improve the quality of the Original Recipe chicken ..... the crust had softened ... and hung loosely off the meat. Eeew. Not really finger-lickin' good, I'd say. :P

According to the KFC Malaysia website :
KFC is the largest fast-food chain in Malaysia and Brunei, serving world famous Original Recipe fried chicken which contains secret blend of 11 herbs and spices. Apart from serving finger-licking good food, we continuously aim for high quality and are committed to ensure food safety by stringent control to maintain our standards.

I'd say that they had better go to the field to ensure that quality and standards are consistent throughout the country! 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

TwinklePan Pretzel

I was coming down the elevator at Boulevard Shopping Mall .... and I smelled pretzels. TwinklePan pretzels to be exact.

Parmesan Cheese Pretzel, RM3.00

Hmn .... it was fresh. It looked good. It smelled good. And I bit into it .... and found that the texture was dense and yet not hard. It tasted quite alright, very fragrant taste and smell of wheat ... but  well, it cannot beat Auntie Anne's. :))

Monday, October 28, 2013

Sharing Downtown

Mom wanted to eat grilled meats. Western, she said.

Where? I asked.

Her friend told her to go to an eatery at Ban Hock Road. Big plate, she said. Lol. Mom was interested, listening to her friend.

Anyway, the place turned out to be Sharing Downtown. This is a branch of Sharing Planet at Stapok, which was in operation for quite long already. However, I had never been there before.

So we went there one evening to Sharing Downtown ...

Love the ambience
The lights transformed the garden beautifully ... guests could choose to sit in kiosks for a very private and relaxed gathering with friends and family. 

We placed our order and did not have to wait for long for our food .... 

Mushroom Soup, RM5.80
This was made from scratch at the restaurant .... And ooo ... it was thick and creamy and rich in flavour; could taste the bits of mushrooms in there. Would be great to eat it with garlic bread ... but we did not order any.

Chicken Caesar Salad
Well .... this salad was not really "Caesar", but it was quite delicious! Mom loved it. There were crunchy fresh vegetables and grilled chicken, coupled with a sweet and rich dressing/

Grilled Chicken Chop, RM13.80
Goodness! The portion was huge. The grilled meat was dressed in a mushroom gravy, with sides of coleslaw and fries. I liked the chicken and the coleslaw.

Grilled Lamb Shoulder, RM19.80
The lamb was quite nicely marinated and not too hard, and served in a black pepper sauce. Forgot to tell them I did not want black pepper sauce since I did not like it. I was just glad that the sauce was not too overpowering. The meat was served with mashed potatoes and greens. 

Garlic Butter Fish, RM14.80
This was my favourite. It was very flavourful - garlic, butter, herbs ... absolutely delicious. However, 2 minus points - it was a bit greasy, and the texture of the fish was too soft. The fish was served on a bed of fries, coleslaw, tartare sauce and a wedge of lemon. 

The bill was RM70.60 with 2 drinks ..... I thought the price was very reasonable. Id definitely be back to try the other stuff!!! 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Homemade Vegetable Dumplings

These homemade vegetable dumplings are the best in the world!


Homemade by Second Aunt

Filled to the max with meat and vegetables ... 

My Second Aunt is the most generous person I know. She always gives me food! One of her signature kueh or traditional cake is this, the vegetable dumpling. What makes it yum is the filling, which tastes very shiok or satisfying each time. And what makes it satisfying is the generous use of pounded dried shrimps, diced meat and hand-shreded jicama. Yums ..... Second Aunt's vegetable dumplings. Just one dumpling is never enough. I can eat three at one go. ;P  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Baskin Robbins, Kuching

I went to the top floor and came down again, and I could not find Baskin Robbins. Then I googled. It said "Ground floor". But I did not see the signature logo at all. I had to eat my ice-cream. Otherwise, I was not leaving.

Finally, I went to the information counter for directions. Go out of the building and turn right, the lady told me.

So I did. And yes, I found the outlet. It was just next to Chatime.

I went inside ... and was glad to discover that there was a free upsize from Double Junior  to Double Regular! It was a week day promotion which was valid from 10 am to 3 pm only. So, I paid only RM10.60 for my Double Regular scoops of ice-cream. Yippee. What a bargain.

Citrus Twist Ice on top of Peanut Butter n' Chocolate

I liked the tangy and refreshing flavour of Citrus Twist Ice, while the Peanut Butter n' Chocolate flavour did not make quite an impression with me.

What felt glad was to have gourmet ice-cream right in Kuching itself. Before this, I had to fly out to KL for Baskin Robbins. But now, I could have it in my hometown. How great is that! I do hope more brands will make their way to Kuching so it is less deprived here now. :P

Friday, October 25, 2013

Lunch @ Bubblelicous City One Kuching

I'd been hearing a lot of people talking about the Taiwanese-style braised beef noodles and the braised pork rice sold here at Bubblelicious Taiwanese Cafe (玉到爱) at City One Kuching. This shop is located on the ground floor, at the far end corner just before the exit to the annex mall.

So I decided to go and try it. I was there before noon, and there weren't anyone manning the shop. However, there were a few tables already occupied with diners. Some were eating and others were waiting for their food. On a counter were many used bowls and cutlery stacked up. I would stay that the shop was understaffed at the time.

I stood at the cashier's perusing the menu ... and a lady came quickly to assist me. I could tell that she was busy, perhaps having to take orders, prepare the food in the kitchenette, serving, and so on. However, she was really polite and answered my clarifications nicely.

I ordered a regular bowl of braised beef noodles and a bowl of braised pork rice. Food was served about 10 minutes later.

Braised Beef Noodles, RM9.90
Wheat noodles were served in a hearty beef broth, topped with 5 large slices of beef, a chunk of carrots and chopped spring onions and Chinese celery. 

Well, this bowl of noodles was quite good, in fact. The texture of the noodles was light and springy. The clear beef broth was rather well-balanced in flavour. I quite enjoyed it. 

Braised Pork Rice, RM6.90
Ooo .... I just loved the look of this. It made me salivate. There were braised minced pork, half a braised hard-boiled egg and a heapful of salted vegetables. 

The braised pork tasted quite mild, in fact .... not heavily spiced. I would prefer if the salted veges were a bit sour .... I think that would complement the rice and meat better. The egg was yum, though.

Overall, we were quite satisfied with our meal here. Recommended, if you happen to be in Kuching. Lol. Mom even recommended it to Third Aunt. Third Aunt worked in Queen's. That's Ngiu Kee rebranded. Go check it out at the annex mall.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

My Favourite Popiah

This is my favourite popiah in Kuching.

It is from Kim Hock Lim at Stampin. Again, this is the popiah I grew up eating. Kim Hock Lim is perhaps Kuching's earliest cafeteria ... and in my memory, it used to operate at the shop opposite Swinburne University, behind Borneo Medical Centre today. After that, it moved to Stampin.

Its popiah is not only my favourite, but it's a favourite among my relatives too. Aunt A, when she comes back from Singapore, eats this popiah every morning for breakfast.

 The popiah

The filling

I went quite late ... at about 11.00 a.m. Mom insisted that there was no more left for that day.

Go and see, I said.

And there was one piece left! Yayy! I quickly bought it. Only RM2.00. It was meant for me. Lol.

Why do I like this popiah so much?

Well, first up, the popiah is wrapped snugly with filling resulting in a neat roll of reasonable size. And then, I feel that the ingredients in the filling do not overpower each other. I could distinctly taste the jicama, the egg and the tofu. The taste of the ingredients, and sweet and savoury flavours of the sauces are really well-balanced. This is punctured by the distinct and fragrant aroma of white pepper. I also enjoy the textures  - the crunchy jicama and french beans, and the soft omelette and tofu, and the chewy pastry. You can see that the ingredients are hand-shredded.

Highly recommended. Do try the next time in Kuching. Its sandwich is also nice.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Horse Bean a.k.a. Chickpea

I had a craving for Horse Bean. Lol. Horse bean cause in Malay, these are known as Kacang Kuda. Kacang = Bean or Nut; and Kuda = Horse. In English they are known as chickpeas.

That morning, I asked Mom whether she'd cook some for me ... and of course she would. ;P She loved them too. So we went straight to the grocery shop to buy some. Chickpeas are sold at RM8.00 per kg now.

Mom shook her head in disapproval. She said that the price had escalated so much! Anyway, she bought half a kilogramme to cook that day.

Cooked chickpeas can be used as a cooking ingredient. But I'd just eat them like that as snacks.

Chickpeas

Mom pressure-cooked the chickpeas with just a little salt. Then they were ready to eat. I loved the distinctive nutty and powdery taste of the peas! Once I started eating, it was difficult to stop. It was sure addictive. And filling too. A handful of these chickpeas would keep me full for a long time.

Hadn't eaten these for a while ... love them. Yums.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Chicken Pies

On a whim, I drove to Aloha Delicatessen & Bakery, located at Jalan Song. I was thinking of getting some chicken pies. Since I hadn't eaten them for some time, I wondered whether they were still as good as I remembered them.

Upon reaching the shop, I parked my car and ventured into the narrow bakery. I went straight to the warmer, where the pies were located. There were pies on the tray, and some were packed in cardboard boxes of 4. Each piece of pie was RM2.50. Immediately, I bought a few pieces for the folks at home.

Chicken pies, RM2.50

I reached home just in time for afternoon coffee break. I made myself a hot cup of coffee and quickly sat down to enjoy my pie.

One bite, and I was ecstatic. The pies were surely very yum. The pastry was buttery and crumbly. It disintegrated very easily so do handle with care. The filling was rich, creamy and moist, and I could chew on bits of chicken and carrots with each bite.

Second Aunt loved them lots. Dad liked it too. No comment from Mum. Lol .... but I was certainly glad that these pies maintained their high quality. Two days later .... I went back to the bakery and bought MORE. Yums. Highly recommended.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bird's Nest

Bird's Nest is a delicacy. Traditional Chinese medicine believes in its many nutritious properties. Bird's nest is said to strengthen weak immune system, repair skin tissues and therefore improve complexion and maintain youthfulness, relieve respiratory ailments, improve gastrointestinal health, and even prevent the common cold and flu. However, all are subjected to regular and consistent intake.

Bird's Nest is essentially the saliva of a species of swiftlets. Cave swiftlets, to be exact. Traditionally, the birds build their nests in caves. Layers and layers of saliva are cemented onto the ceiling of caves, in the shape of small crescents. My last trip to Niah Caves right here in Miri, coincided with the bird's nest harvesting season. Right in front of my very eyes, was a nest collector. He was strapped to a rope, and he was dangerously suspended in mid-air. He poked a long bamboo pole at a nest, and when it fell to the ground, his friend hurried to collect it.

Given the hazard of harvesting these nests, the high demand for the nests and its low supply, bird's nests yield a high market price. Good quality bird's nests sell for thousands of dollars per kilogramme. It is also known as the Caviar of the East.

These days, concrete nesting houses are built to "cultivate" bird's nests. The natural conditions of the cave is simulated to entice the birds to build their nests there. I have seen these concrete buildings around, but have never been inside, though. Check out this website to provide insight into one such house.

So anyway, when I went home this time, there were bird's nests, given by Sil's mom. They came from one such bird's nest farm belonging to her brother. These nests were unprocessed, meaning that there were lots of impurities embedded in them. They had to be removed before they could be consumed.

Dried birds' nest 

When soaked, the bird's nest turned into soft white fibrous strands. They were semi-translucent, and smelled much like raw eggs. 

Soaked birds' nest 

But there was so much of tiny black fibres and feathers, nestled amongst the strands. And picking them out was a painstaking process. I took out the bird's nest, strand by strand, and washed them in water. Cleaning just one piece of nest took hours. 

Cleaned and soaked birds nest

Once cleaned, there were ready to cook. Usually, it is double-boiled with just some rock sugar and a bit of water. Mom boiled it over small fire for an hour. 

Ready to eat

It's best to consume birds' nest on an empty stomach, to allow the body to fully absorb the nutrients. Some people eat it early in the morning once they get out of bed. I have a friend to eats it late at night, before she goes to bed.

Me? I consumed it at night. Well, it's not my first time eating birds' nest. I usually buy those ready-to-eat ones in tiny containers. Those were pretty much tasteless. It felt like eating strands of jelly in sugar water. These ones which I had cleaned myself ... was slimy or rather, gelatinous. I did like to slurp the strands and lightly chew on them. And to me, these ones tasted like cooked egg whites. Lol. Not sure why. Perhaps these were the unprocessed ones.

Of course, merely consuming a bowl would not do anything to enhance my complexion - admittedly, that was the only reason which compelled me to eat bird's nest. Lol, but anyway, I did like to eat it. Back-breaking labour it was to pick out those tiny feathers ..... we still had some in the container .... and I do not think anyone is interested to clean them anytime soon. Lol. Maybe next time.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Walnuts In Shell

"What are those?" I asked Mom, pointing to some round hard things on the table.

"Walnuts," she replied. Apparently, her cousin had gone for a holiday to Turkey and had brought back walnuts in shell as gifts.

I had certainly not seen walnuts in shells before this. Not the real thing. I'd seen pictures, of course.

Walnuts in shell

I took a pestle and lightly knocked on the shell. Then I pried it open to reveal crinkly walnuts inside! They somewhat reminded me of the human brain. I took one seed out and popped it into my mouth.

Inside the shells 

Fresh and crunchy no doubt, but ... 

"Bitter!" I squealed. After which, I put all the others aside in an air tight container. Eew. I wasn't going to eat them at all.

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Noodle Descendants, Kuching

Min Joo Cafe used to be located at Bishop Gate, a small lane off Carpenter Street in Kuching. It used to occupy a corner shoplot there, dishing out bowls and bowls of mouth-watering kolo mee and offal soup. The interiors of the shop was cramped with tables and chairs, and was always packed with customers, no matter what time of the day it was!

I had eaten the kolo mee here since I was a child ... and till today, it remains one of my favourite noodle establishments in Kuching.

My last visit to this noodle shop was 2 years ago. Though I love the noodles a lot, this is not a place I can afford to visit regularly. Not because the noodles are expensive, but because eating here is really time consuming. People have got to be prepared to wait for a long, long time for their food! Judging from this, Min Joo's signature kolo mee is still very popular among Kuchingites.

Since my last visit, Min Joo Cafe has its shop renamed to Noodle Descendants (面家汤) and moved to a shoplot at Jalan Padungan. Despite this change of name and location, the people running the business remain the same. We still refer to it as "Carpenter Street Kolo Mee" even though it is now at Padungan.

The auntie behind the cooking counter ... she'd been cooking noodles for as long as I remembered! See the queue on the right; hungry diners waiting for a table. 

Just like at the old shop, there was a counter at the entrance, where the condiments were placed. 

It's a Saturday when I went there. Weekends meant the crowd was even bigger. I was mentally prepared to wait for a LONG time. So this was my activity log ...

11.02 a.m.
I arrived at the shop, and joined in the queue for a table.

11.23 a.m.
I secured  a table after a batch of diners left. However, I had to share it with another person. Sharing tables is a common phenomenon here.

11.24 a.m.
My table was cleared of used cups and glasses.

11.25 a.m. 
The bowls and eating utensils were cleared, and the table was wiped.

11.26 a.m. 
My order for my drinks was taken.

11.31 a.m.
My drink was delivered to the table.

Kopi 

11.33 a.m. 
Condiments were sent to the table, and my order was taken. I ordered a regular noodles with a small bowl of offal soup.

The signature condiment here .... birds' eye chillies soaked in a concoction of soy sauce and malt vinegar. A long time ago, they served their noodles with pickled red cut chillies. Then after that, they switched to this version of chillies.

12.17 p.m.
My noodles and soup arrived.

The offal soup, RM5.50 (Small)
Hmn ... the soup was really clear, but it was packed with flavour. Delicious and very satisfying. There were seaweed, strips of salted cabbage, fish cake, fish balls, pork belly slices, livers, kidneys, intestines, stomach, and some other unidentifiable parts of the pig. :)) Loved it! 

The legendary noodles, RM4.00
The noodes were very moist, being served in a sauce made up predominantly of shallot oil, lard and malt vinegar. Toss the noodles well in the sauces and dig in. The garnishing included minced pork, fish cake, fish ball, char siew, pork slices and even a slice of liver. Very generous was the garnishing, I would say! 



12.35 p.m.
I finished eating everything. :P

So .... from the time I sat down to order till the time my food came, there was a 45-minute wait time. Not too bad considering the fact that others have waited for over an hour. Lol.

There were only 3 items on the menu :
1) Soup - small and large;
2) Noodles - regular or "kosong"; "Kosong" meant the noodles would be served plain without toppings.
3) White rice

So why so slow, given the limited items?
1) Business was too good! There were people eating in the shop, and more people taking away packets and packets of noodles. Once someone vacates a table, another set of customers would quickly snap up the table.

2) The cooks were meticulous in their preparation. They took pains to ensure that each bowl contained all the ingredients. And to do that, they arranged the ingredients by hand, neatly and painstakingly in every bowl. Many a times, people wanted their noodles and soup customised. "No kidneys," someone requested. "Only char siew and fish cake," another would say. Hence, it was tricky to get all the orders correct.

That Saturday, I waited till my kopi got cold .... chatted with my parents till there was nothing else left to talk about .... played Candy Crush till my phone battery ran out .... then only my food arrived. Despite that ... I thoroughly enjoyed my noodles and the soup. For me, it was worth the wait. Like always. :))

Till next time!! In 2 years? Lol, I surely hoped not. :))

This shop is open every day, closed on the second day of every month.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Braised Pork With Mei Cai

Second Aunt loved to cook Braised Pork with Mei Cai (梅菜). She herself loved this dish, which was absolutely appetising with white rice. Since she knew I loved it too, Second Aunt gave me a large bowl, filled with generous chunks of pork belly and pieces of Mei Cai.

Second Aunt's Braised Pork With Mei Cai

Mei Cai or Mei Gan Cai (梅干菜) is essentially preserved mustard greens. The fresh vegetables are sun-dried, salted, fermented, steamed and then dried once more. The preserved vegetable has an intense flavour - salty, earthy and pungent.

Mei Cai pairs very well with pork. The unique flavours of the Mei Cai infuses the pork when braised together for a long time. I liked the dish to be sweet and salty, the meat soft and the vegetables crunchy. And Second Aunt cooks it right every time. :P

One of these days, I had better asked her for the recipe! 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

A Gift of Homemade Shaomai

First, Mom was not expecting me home that day. Hence, she did not prepare dinner. Plus, a close relative was admitted to the hospital. All at home were worried about her condition. So, Mom was too disorientated to cook that night.

It was alright, though, cause at home, there was plenty to eat! Durians, for one, kept me full. Then, my neighbour R  sent over these shaomai dumplings. She had made them from scratch.

Fresh homemade shaomai dumplings

Freshly steamed, these dumplings were very delicious to eat. Each were compactly filled with a mixture of pork, Spanish mackerel fish paste, and diced water chestnuts. Some chopped Chinese celery decorated each dumpling. I quite liked these savoury dumplings, especially when dipped in a spicy, sweet and tangy chilli sauce.

Back home, there is always plenty to eat ... cause the elders really enjoy cooking. And they always make it sound so simple ... but I know a lot of effort goes into each dish that they prepare. The same goes for these dumplings. R had spent the whole afternoon making them ..... and then generously gave us some. Bless her kindness and generosity!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

His Majesty, King Durian

I was sure glad that durians awaited me as soon as I landed in Kuching. Though they're not in season, we had some fruits at home which came from Uncle's orchard.


Yummy durian

This article was published in the July 1999 issue of Readers' Digest Malaysia, p. 51 - 55. It was written by Roger Welty, an American-born writer. I  had read it many years back, and it remained one that is memorable. I thought I would share it today.

My watch showed it was five minutes to noon. I grabbed my notebook and rushed out of my classroom, shouting over my shoulder to my students, "Be sure to finish your homework reading for tomorrow's class!"

I fairly leapt down the three flights of stairs to a narrow laneway and out of the side gate of the university.

As I had hoped, the noon tram was just trundling round the corner. It slowed for the stop and I jumped aboard. My goal was two stops further along where, with careful timing, I could dash into what we teachers called the Dog Steak Shop just ahead of the clerks pouring out of the palace gate eager for their lunch too.

I spied Sompot Upa-in, who is a lecturer at Bangkok's Silpakorn University, waving frantically for me to get off the tram. I stood and staggered to the rear steps and did a balletic leap for the kerb. Sompot caught me. "What's up?" I gasped as he pulled me up from the gutter.

Just at that moment, I noticed a distinct odour all over that road, one of pungent vegetable decay, and I saw stacks of what looked like medieval maces heaped up along the kerb and piled up in front of shops. Some were oblong like rugby balls, others were round like soccer balls and about the same size, but all had great sharp spikes on them, like lumps of pointy iron meant to crush helmeted skulls in chivalrous combat. 

I didn't add the smell to the appearance. Bangkok is a city full of smells, some enticing, some distinctly off-putting. This was one of those nose-searing acrid stinks.

Sompot helped me to scrape up my notebooks and pulled me out of danger of the tram's shiny steel wheels. "Don't get yourself killed yet," he said. "You have a new and wonderful experience waiting for you."

He tugged and I stood shakily. "Go in there," he ordered.

On both sides of the entrance to the narrow air-conditioned food shop he was dragging me into were more of those kinghts-in-armour maces, only light brown and mixed with green instead of rusting iron lumps.

"What are these?" I splutered.

"Later, later," Sompot urged. "You've got a wonderful treat coming. Sit down and order a drink - I suggest water, plain cold water."

He disappeared out of the door and through the shop window, I watched him lifting, testing one of the unfriendly looking vegetables, gingerly turning it as if for weight. The shopkeeper then pressed a dangerously sharp-looking scalpel into it and ripped out a strip of thick hide exposing a bright yellow inside. My friend paid and came back into the shop. He handed the pointy lump to a waiter and sat down.

"Water, plain water," he called.

"You still haven't told me what this is, that pointy thing," I said. "And what happened to the drains around here - everything has a new stink, not like yesterday's." Could it be that the tidal Chao Phraya River had backed up Bangkok's sewers?

Sompot laughed. "Those are durians. They've just arrived from the country."

"Durians!" I'd heard the name uttered in awe by a foreigner whose nose crinkled even as he spat out the word.

Many visitors to Thailand have read of the evil stench of the durian, and how dangerous the fruit can be if it drops off its tree onto your windscreen ... or your head. In Malaysia they often stretch rope nets under the trees to catch the falling fruit before it clobbers some luckless soul.

It even has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, but is reputed to be dangerous if a heavy drinker guzzles liquor while eating it.

As one Malay chap put it, "A shot of hard liquor after a durian feast is apt to drop you in your tracks!" Here then is a fruit with a reputation.

The shopkeeper came back with a platter and two plates, and with clever surgical artistry he plunged his knife into the tough hide, twisted it and broke the fruit into two pieces. In either half nestled several bright yellow blobs, like dinosaur eggs, perhaps, in a snug nest.

Sompot watched me. "Now, dig one out .... with your fingers. Like this, scoop it out and eat it slowly. Enjoy the flavour and the texture. Ah ...." He breathed deeply. "This is a good one. It's called mon thong, the golden pillow. It's one of the best. Use your thumb, dig it out and eat it. Slowly, like I said. Savour it."

That very day commenced my love affair with the king of fruit, the smelly, mace-like durian. In contrast to durian's outward appearance, the flesh inside was soft and custardy. As I pried up a blob, my fingers sank into it. I held it under my nose. "It doesn't stink!"

The flesh fairly melted in my mouth. "I've never tasted anything like this. What's that taste?" I muttered through my mouthful.

I'd heard someone say it's like something dead and decaying. But it seemed to me it was more like a happy symphony of bananas, caramel, vanilla and garlic or onion spread.

Sompot was less analytical. "Most people just eat, like their fingers and dig back in for more."

"I do like it," I cried with enthusiasm as I plunged in to gouge out another piece.

"Easy there! If you eat too much you'll suffer from ron nai."

"Heartburn," I translated, flinging caution to the wind.

Later I learned that the durian, Durio zibethinus, is a mber of the Bombacaceae family of trees that includes the fat-trunked African baobab, the kapok and the South American balsa tree. This native plant of Southeast Asia is cultivated mostly in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, where, with careful selection from chance seedling, they produce several varieties of edible (delicious!) fruit.

Most come ripe in a six-week period from early May through June. The result is great stacks, a veritable Himalaya of durians. Exportation is made difficult by the urgency of sending the durians to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Malaysia. Durian is also exported to Australia, North America and Europe. Some dedicated enthusiasts may be willing to pay up to 1200 baht for off-season durian.

First-class hotels in Bangkok ban guests from bringin them in. This is also true of airlines. They fear the problem of the aroma getting into their air-conditioning.

As Sompot pointed out, the durian may produce heartburn. I found that to be true after, in my enthusiasm, I had wolfed down a whole ripe durian after only an hour-long sitting.

My friend's warning was also borne out by Dr Saiyud Niyomviphat during a seminar on diabetes mellitus at the Vejthani Hospital in Bangkok. The durian has a high kilojoule count with lots of phosphorus and sugar, which may cause high cholesterol. When asked by a participant if diabetics should avoid it altogether, the doctor laughed. Making a fist, she said, "If you can restrict yourself to no more durian than this - about half a lump - then it will probably be alright."

Then she added, "For true durian enthusiasts it will prove almost impossible to restrict themselves to that small amount! Otherwise, you should reduce other high-kilojoule food, had you already had a durian that day."

Self-deprecting laughter by the audience may have proved her right. 

I don't know how many durians I have eaten in the decades since my introduction to the king of fruit. Maybe hundreds. But I do know I have never selected one. I've always let someone more knowledgeable pick it out for me, or the vendor chooses one.

"It's the best!" he would explain when I stopped at a roadside stand or pulled up behind a utility loaded with fresh-from-the-orchard fruit.


For another thing, if I lived alone on an island where there were kilometres of durian orchards, I would starve to death. For I cannot for the life of me find out how you open these things. 

But where there's a will, there's a way. If the vendor does not cut it open and I am not eating in a restaurant where the waiter can perform the necessary surgery, then maybe I will just go out on the street and flag a taxi driver. I will make it worth his while, I will, to get at my favourite fruit, His Majesty, King Durian. 

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Kueh Chap Breakfast

I brought my friend here for breakfast. She'd not eaten the famous Kueh Chap here, and wanted to try it.

We ordered ours without offals. A small bowl was RM4.50 now. We did not have to wait for that long ... probably about 10 minutes.

 Kueh Chap
In the bowl were flat triangular rice noodles, clear soy broth and topped with braised soy hard-boiled egg, pork slices, and tofu. 

I found to broth to be a tad diluted now. If I remember correctly, it used to be more flavourful. And since my friend did not give me any feedback after eating it, I'd think that she was not too impressed with it. She had only commented that the chilli dipping sauce that came with bowl of Kueh Chap was yum.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Satay @ Sunrise Food Court

This place was forever crowded on a Sunday evening. My friend and I were at Sunrise Food Court, at the Boulevard Commercial Centre intersection. Actually, I did not know what I wanted to eat .... so I merely ordered satay.

Satay, RM0.70 per piece

There were chicken, pork and lamb satay. We merely ordered chicken and pork. The meats were both tender and well-marinated, Of the two, I found the chicken satay to be yummier. The peanut sauce was on the savoury side, whilst I was more accustomed to a sweeter version. I thought that a sweeter sauce would complement the savoury meats. I liked that the peanuts were coarsely chopped. It gave the sauce a great texture. Some cucumbers and raw onions were on the side. I would recommend the satay here. Do try it yourself.  

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Lunch @ The Summit Cafe, Miri

I brought my friend there for lunch. The Summit Cafe is well-known for its Kelabit dishes. I just love the food here. Since my friend had not been here before, I thought I'll just let her have a sample of the delicious food of the highlands.

There were a lot of dishes to pick from .... and I chose all the signature items.


From the top, clockwise : Daun Ubi, Labo Senutuk which is pounded pork, and Luang Senai or pounded fish. All were really delicious with the fragrant rice. I could really taste the natural sweetness of the ingredients, which were lightly flavoured with salt and other spices. Highly recommended.

 Nasi Lemak 
The nasi lemak here is also very delicious. Some say that it's the best nasi lemak in Miri, and I do agree! The rice was fragrant and rich with the flavour of coconut milk, the sambal was spicy and tantalising, and the beef rendang was tender, and very shiok!! Goodness, I can't wait to go back for more!

This cafe was also featured in the Lonely Planet Guidebook. And no wonder! For 2 plates of rice and 2 drinks, we paid RM15.50. Good food at a reasonable price. A great place to have lunch!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Dinner @ Xing Wang

We drove around at about 7.30 p.m., not knowing where to go for dinner and now knowing what to eat.

"Silver spoon, lah!" my friend decided.

So we parked and went inside the restaurant. Quite many people there on a Friday night. We sat and were handed 2 menus .... which we browsed.

I looked at her .... and she looked at me .... and we decided to go somewhere else. We walked out and crossed the road to go to Xing Wang, a coffee shop opposite.

Stir-fried Midin or Fiddlehead ferns with red rice wine

Sea cucumber soup

Salted egg pork chop

All the dishes were yum ... I especially liked the crunchy vegetables and the large dices of sea cucumber in the soup. My friend, on the other hand, sang praises for the pork chop. She claimed that it was the first time eating it like that, and she thoroughly enjoyed it. But best of all, we only paid RM30.00 for the meal. We thought the price was so reasonable. 

Friday, October 11, 2013

Chicken & Black Fungus In Shaoxing Wine

And so I adapted this recipe I saw on this site called Cooking Pleasure.

I marinated the chicken breast meat in Shaoxing wine, dark soy sauce, and sesame oil. Hmn .... don't ask me the measurement ... I probably poured about a tablespoon of each .... :P Anyway, I left the chicken to marinade overnight.

Then, I soaked the black fungus and waited till they softened. My friend helped me to buy some very good quality fungus. They did not need much time to soften in water, and when cooked, these were crunchy yet soft to the palate. Very pleasant to eat.

With all my ingredients ready, I was ready to cook. In my pot, I sauteed some shredded ginger and spring onions in sesame oil. When they got fragrant, I dumped in all the meat and the black fungus, and stir-fried for a while. In went half a cup of Shaoxing wine, a tablespoon of dark soy, a tablespoon of light soy, half a tablespoon of sugar. I stewed the whole thing for about 20 minutes ....

Yums ... 

And then it was ready .... I just loved the taste of the combination of the sauces and the wine really made everything more fragrant. All I needed was my bowl of white rice, and I was good for dinner. :P

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Wat Dan Hor @ 99 Cafe

My friend said she wanted to cook dinner .... then promptly changed her mind. She coaxed me to go out dinner with her. She wanted to have something soupy for dinner.

Well, fine. I did not mind accompanying her. It meant that I too, did not have to trouble myself cooking. :P

We headed to 99 Cafe at the Boulevard Commercial Centre. I haven't been here for a long time. And I still do not know what to eat every time I come. It seems to me the food here is just mediocre ... there's no must-eats as such.

So then, the question is, why do everyone come here? Hmn ..... well, other people may like the food here. Some may like the large array of food available, while some people may like the atmosphere.

Anyway, we walked around to survey what we wanted to eat. My friend was tempted by the curry rice .... but decided to leave that for another day. She ordered a rice vermicelli noodle soup with wantons from a stall at the far end

But when her order arrived, it was egg noodle soup with wantons instead. My friend was sure that she had ordered rice vermicelli, but the vendor refused to give way, insisting that my friend had ordered wrongly. Since they were both uncertain who was in the wrong, my friend accepted the bowl of egg noodle soup and paid for it. Though the noodle soup tasted alright, my friend did not enjoy her meal after her little incident with the vendor. 

I ordered a plate of Stir-fried Kueh Tiaw in Egg Sauce. 滑蛋河.

RM4.00 per plate

Hmn ... it looked alright. Upon the first taste, I found the sauce to be a bit bland. The noodles had the wok's breath or smoky flavour, and there was a reasonable amount of ingredients in the dish. I saw some sliced pork, a cuttlefish ring, a single prawn, and some greens. I requested for fresh chilies in soy sauce to eat with my noodles. The chillies definitely made it tastier. 

My friend then ordered a glass of iced tea .... but it never came. Business is good here ..... so service and quality of food is compromised sometimes.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Chicken Rice @ Ah Chiang Seafood

My friend AT eats here quite often, he says. The shop vendor would even look him up if he failed to show up. Lol. Another friend tells me that she loves the chicken rice here. And then, I always see this shop crowded with customers. So when there was opportunity the other day, my friend and I had lunch here.

I had the plain steamed chicken with my rice ... while my friend ordered a combination of braised soy pork and steamed chicken breast.

Our meats ...

Well, I did like the tender and juicy cut of meat on my platter, which had been flavoured with very fragrant light soy sauce and sesame oil. I needed just a bit of chilli dip to spice up the meat ..... and I was good to go. The think slivers of braised pork were totally infused with spices and fragrant soy gravy, and was delicious as well.

Because I felt cold in the tummy, I ordered a soup .... there were only two types of soup that day. Pork ribs with black bean soup or pork ribs with pickled Szechuan mustard. I opted for the later. 

Double boil soup, RM5.00

There were 3 pieces of pork ribs and 1 piece of chicken claws in the porcelain bowl. Besides the slices of pickled Szechuan mustard, there were some red dates in the soup too. Well, the clear soup was served boiling hot. I was glad that the flavour of the pickled Szechuan mustard did not come through too strongly. Ths soup was really tasty, and most importantly, it warmed my stomach.

Actually, I kind of look forward to eating here again!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Asia Music Festival Venue

Before this event, I surely did not realise that the grounds of Eastwood Golf and Country Club was so huge! I was definitely impressed. 

The music corridor, as seen just outside the venue. Love the well-tended carpet grass!! 

I really enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere here, not to mention the lush vegetation. The kindly parking attendant even reminded us to be careful, in case we were hit by a stray golf ball. 

Going towards the pond ... 


Wow, the water was so clear that I could see the reflection of the shrubs and trees

There were a few bridges large and small that linked the fields ...

A bridge over water ... 

Love the long, wild grass


Ooh ... what a beautiful place .... I was thinking that a picnic here would not be a bad idea 

View from the back entrance of the corridor 

Going around the golf course was quite an eye-opening experience indeed!

Well, that concludes my write-up about the Asia Music Festival 2013. I did love the music. The food, however, was sad. I do look forward to next year's festival!! 

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