Tuesday, November 21, 2006
Imperial walk into Shang Palace
Hairy crabs anyone?
Crispy crab & minced meat roll
Oodles of delicious noodles
This year’s hairy crab season clawed its way into international news headlines, triggered by a furore in Taiwan when a batch of Chinese hairy crabs was allegedly detected with nitrofuran, a cancer-causing agent. Consequently, this prompted a Chinese crab exporter to offer a one million yuan (approximately RM469,000) reward to any Taiwanese health inspectors who succeed in finding any trace of carcinogen in other hairy crab consignments as a measure to restore consumers’ confidence.
Back at the famed Yangcheng Lake in the Chinese eastern province of Jiangsu – home of the hairy crabs – counterfeit crabs appeared on the market despite numerous measures undertaken by the Yangcheng Lake Crab Farmers Association to set the real McCoys apart. In Hong Kong, a thief was nabbed by local police after his unsuccessful theft of these gourmet crabs worth a princely USD1,280 (RM4,736) from a restaurant.
These incidents only served to elevate the snob appeal of these pricey creatures. According to The Asian Wall Street Journal food writer, Stan Sesser, some Hong Kongers have even gone to the extent of eating hairy crabs ‘tycoon-style’ – consuming only the deep-orange hued roe found in female crabs without bothering with the rest of the crabs. A sheer waste considering how sweet and sublime the hairy crab meat is, especially when it is skillfully prepared by experts like Shang Palace’s executive Chinese chef, Leung Sing Cheung.
So what's the fuss about? Well, you won't really know until you sampled one of these hairy crustaceans. One of the few truly seasonal delicacies left, no Chinese food connoisseurs will forgo the chance of savouring these distinctive grey-green crabs with furry claws and legs come late autumn.
Local hairy crab lovers can feast on these pricey, princely delights in the Shang Palace’s imperial setting. The splendid six-course menu (RM238++ per person) starts with warm, satisfying bowl of Braised Shark’s Fin with Hairy Crab Roe and Sea Urchin. Not a very politically correct soup to have but ... it tasted oh so good! Thick strands of shark’s fin, egg-yolk rich crab roe, chunky crab meat and delicate sea urchin - they make an unbeatable combination.
The piece de resistance – a whole hairy crab steamed the traditional way – is first cut up with surgical precision by the staff for easy eating. What a luxury it is to simply scoop up the scrumptious roe from within the top shell and devour the sweet, fleshy crab meat from the crustacean’s spindly legs.
Surprisingly the claw meat turns out to be the most disappointing part unlike other crabs. The crab meat's inherent sweetness is heightened by the black vinegar and minced ginger dip. Since the Chinese believe the consumption of hairy crabs has a cooling effect on the body, a warm cup of sweetened ginger tea is always served to neutralize this effect.
The Deep-fried Beancurd Roll Stuffed with Minced Meat and Crab Meat stands out in nice contrast with the Stewed Dried Fish Maw with Hairy Crab Roe and Wolfberries. Wonderfully crisp on the outside, the beancurd roll yields a most delectable filling inside. The latter is an apt showcase of delicated Cantonese nuances in which the fish maw’s bland, spongy texture acts as the perfect foil to offset the flavourful crab roe and meat whilst simultaneously emphasizing the wolfberries’ subtle sweetness.
Delicious stewed noodles with shredded chicken, hairy crab meat and suet choy (a type of preserved vegetable) and glutinous balls stuffed with black sesame paste in sweetened ginger tea round off this noteworthy menu.
Shangri-la Hotel Kuala Lumpur
11 Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2074 3904
Business hours Monday-Saturday 12 noon to 2.30 pm
Sunday & public holidays 10.30 am to 2.30 pm
Daily 6.30 pm to 10.30 pm
Monday, October 30, 2006
Been revisiting some food haunts which were reviewed in the past. Glad to know some outlets are still maintaining the standards whilst sadly, one or two didn't quite cut it and has even folded. These are the ones which can be relied upon for a good dining experience:
Delicious by Ms Read
Now stronger than ever with a revamped menu. Old favourites remained but newer additions are most welcomed. Especially in the dessert section. Berrilicious Chocolate Pavlova, Apple Lumberjack and Mango & Lychee Triffle in a Glass are serious contenders to win over the sweet-toothed besides the outlet's signature buttery scones and 'blackforest in a glass' offerings.
Seek out Delicious by Ms Read at Bangsar Village and the new wing of One Utama.
Precious Old China
After a rather disappointing experience when I took an Oz-based dear friend/fellow foodie there, our most recent visit over the weekend proved the chef has lost none of his magic. Save for the overly salty 'tau kan' (vegetarian bean puffs?) in the beancurd dish, our order of Cincalok Chicken, Ju Hu Char, Pie Tee, Pucuk Paku Masak Lemak and Asam Fish were spot on. Special mention goes to the Ju Hu Char - can't recall the last time my parents raved over this popular Nyonya-Hokkien dish but yesterday, they did just that!
The Mee Siam was so-so ; love the sauce but disliked the clumpy meehoon. Nevertheless, the Bubur Cha Cha was top notch. No wonder this girlfriend of mine goes ever so often for lunch with her colleagues!
Dine in its ornate ambience filled with Chinese/Nyonya antiques and collectibles at the Central Market, a stone throw away from KL's Chinatown.
Hoong Kee Seafood Steamboat
Taman Maluri folks never had it this good. Every nook and corner of this bustling commercial centre (close to the ever-popular Jusco supermart) is either a coffee shop or an eatery of some sort. Reasonably priced and varied offerings attract hordes of hungry office workers by day and urban families at night.
Come here for the great seafood noodles in the morning and for lunch. The fish ball noodles are priced at RM3.50 but the seafood version at RM4.00 is much better. One gets 3 prawns, several razor clams, bouncy fish balls and sliced fish cake with bits of dried seaweed in the soupy noodles. 'Kon loh' or dry-tossed version also available. If you feel like indulging, pomfret and other pricier seafood from Pulau Ketam can be added upon request.
Dinner is strictly steamboat at RM13.50 per person. The platter of ingredients include fish paste noodles, two types of fish balls, meat balls, fried beancurd sheets or 'fu chok', white beancurd triangles, sliced fish, golden straw mushrooms, 'sui kow' or stuffed dumplings, prawns, vegetables, crispy yee mee, meehoon and eggs. Diners have a choice of having both clear soup and tom yam in one pot or stick to either broth of choice. While the freshness of the ingredients are unquestionable ... some of us felt a tad thirsty after the meal which could indicate the soup might have been flavoured with MSG. Still, the place seems to be doing roaring business so perhaps it's a case of eaters' beware?
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
Today, Japanese restaurants with classical décor like those depicted in the Memoirs of a Geisha blockbuster no longer reign supreme. Instead, most prefer the minimalist Zen approach, with sleek glass, dark wood and steel interiors, clean-line soft furnishings, open-concept show kitchen and piped-in jazz music. Service staff is garbed not in elaborate kimonos but informal happi coats (short Japanese robe with straight sleeves) or monochromatic ensembles of white shirt and black pants.
Mizu, a Japanese fine-dining eatery at the Bangsar Village, is the embodiment of this revolutionary, modern approach. Its intimidating granite and cascading water façade at the entrace gives little away of its goings-on inside. Walk through its narrow, raised passageway and you’d find yourself in an elongated L-shaped dining area interspersed with secluded corners. Noren or Japanese doorway curtains and some framed artworks underscore the outlet’s understated décor whilst its elongated sushi counter sits adjacent to an open-concept kitchen. Other features include a wine cellar, a private dining room and an outdoor patio that overlooks part of Bangsar’s busy thoroughfares.
Executive chef Aspazali Amran, one of the few Malay chefs skilled in the art of Japanese cuisine, helms the kitchen team here. Having previously worked for the old Nadaman restaurant at the Shangri-la KL, Chef Aspazali shows that his 20-year experience and training stints in Japan has evolved to complement Mizu’s contemporary attitude. His innovative specialties infused with French/Continental elements, has already won him the stamp of approval from discerning corporate types and local dignitaries who frequent Mizu. Amongst them are several company bosses of Japanese corporations who hosted the Toyota F1 crew to dinner last year.
Chef Aspazali’s amuse bouche of Deep-fried Maki Roll got the evening off to a rousing start. A house specialty here, it comprises sushi rice roll with minced salmon, red tuna, tobiko (flying fish roe) and mayonnaise, coated and deep-fried in crisp tempura batter. A full portion of 8 pieces costs RM15++.
Many of his signature dishes are highly inspired by Tokyo’s cosmopolitan outlook. The dish of Foie Gras with Daikon (RM30++) proves how a simple, rustic dish of simmered Japanese radish can be transformed into an epicurean delight with the inclusion of pan-fried foie gras. The latter’s rich, velvety texture merged so seamlessly with the radish’s delicate sweetness that diners are unlikely to forget this sublime dish in a hurry. We bet the Foie Gras Chawan Mushi or steamed egg custard with foie gras (RM25++) is equally outstanding.
The Sashimi Platter (RM130++) is a sight to behold with succulent cuts of red and white tuna, salmon, amaebi (sweet shrimp) and yellow tail artistically presented on a tall mound of shaved ice. Flown in twice weekly, the fish’s quality and freshness is assuredly comparable to other fine Japanese eateries.
For those who are averse to raw delicacies, the Mizu Maki (RM35++ for 6 pcs) is worth sampling. The reverse sushi roll, in which the nori or seaweed sheet is rolled inwards with the rice on outside, comes filled with sliced avocado, grilled unagi (eel), tempura prawn, lettuce and tobiko.
Chef Aspazali forays into fusion again with his Grilled Maguro Steak (RM35++) that looks remarkably like a luscious steak. Lightly basted with a concoction of teriyaki and garlic sauce, the tuna belly is melt-in-the-mouth tender.
The creative Kedahan whose boyish looks can rival that of celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s, certainly has no qualms about experimenting with new ingredients and techniques.
“My modern approach towards Japanese dishes will appeal to the young and adventurous diners who patronize Mizu,” said Chef Aspazali. “To stand out from competitors, I advise my team to maximize on our culinary creativity while retaining the core essence of Japanese cuisine. Thus, new tempting dishes can be regularly introduced to entice customers and generate word-of-mouth recommendations to family and friends.”
Although more Continental than Japanese, the Baked Jumbo Oyster with Cheese (RM15++ each) is certain to have you raving about it to all and sundry. Baked in its shell with grated cheese, the huge mollusk which is the size of a large sauce plate, tasted sinfully rich and indulgent. Thankfully, its accompanying dressing of light soy sauce and minced garlic prevented this speciality from being overly cloying.
More edgy temptations can be found in the a la carte menu such as Marinated Fresh Salmon with Yam (RM25++), Pizza with Salted Cuttlefish (RM25++) and Spicy Seafood Mini Hot Pot with Kim Chi (RM25++).
Desserts are a little more sedate with the Macha (green tea) or Black Sesame Ice-cream and freshly sliced fruits.
Mizu also has a good selection of wine and saké for those who enjoy their favourite tipple to complement the culinary delights here. If the outlet doesn’t carry the desired vintage, they will try their best to procure it to ensure your next dining experience will be truly complete.
MIZU JAPANESE FINE-DINING (pork-free)
Lot F6 First Floor
No1 Jalan Telawi Satu
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: 2283 6988
Friday, September 15, 2006
^ Fresh oysters to seduce the senses
^ Angel hair pasta with saffron sauce & seafood
^ Scrumptious lobster tail terrine
^ Prime rib carved at your tableside
^ 80 day grain fed Australian filet mignon with side dishes
^ Sink your teeth into this tender ribeye with morel cream sauce
^ Berries with cream for a tantalising finish
Touted as Kuala Lumpur’s first international steak restaurant, Prime is set to take the proverbial bull by the horns, serving up the finest cuts of imported beef within its sleek, contemporary confines.
Extensive timber inlay and impressive custom-built floor-to-ceiling wine displays are matched by high backed two-tone leather chairs and oversized tables that accord extra space and elbow room.
If you wish to see and be seen, opt for the main open seating area. Otherwise, be discreetly cloistered in cosy booth seats and secluded nooks for better privacy. The 10-seater private dining room looks like a presidential conference room that offers an up close and personal vista of the culinary masters at work. While show kitchens are now almost de rigueur for new restaurants, Prime goes one up with its novel Sommelier’s Table. Naturally wine samplings are the main focus here and the resident wine manager will be more than happy to help select suitable wines to complement their meal.
Prime’s steak cuts vary between the basic 220g (8 oz) and the staggering 900g (32 oz or two pounds!) portions, covering a prized range that includes Black Angus 200 day aged and Australian 120 and 80 day aged steaks, grilled on lava stone or imported charcoal. For connoisseurs, there is the Australian certified Kobe-style Wagyu beef with a marble score of six and above. This score is considered the best as the meat has a good balance of dense fat and lean marbling.
The different ‘aged’ steaks actually denote the total number of days the cattle is fed with high grade grains (usually corn), which determines how tender and well-marbled the beef is going to be. Good things don’t come cheap and neither does Wagyu (pronounced wah-g'you, it means Japanese cattle) beef, even though the ones served at Prime comes from Wagyu cattle raised in Australia and not Kobe, Japan. Raised under stringent, exacting conditions, the cattle are placed under a carefully controlled diet and given daily massages to procure supremely tender and densely marbled beef cuts. Is it any surprise a 340g (12 oz) Wagyu sirloin costs RM300 a pop?
My serving of 80 day centre cut 220g Filet Mignon (RM60++) with Caramelized Balsamic-Shallot Jus with Deep-fried Potato Balls with Foie Gras Heart (RM15++) certainly deserves top billing for its amazingly juicy tenderness. Despite its deceptively dainty portion, the expertly prepared steak proved substantial enough. The subtly sweet and tangy sauce brought out the beef’s sumptuous full-bodied flavour whilst the potato balls teased the palate with its mixture of crisp and velvety smooth textures.
Our lunch had earlier started with oven-fresh poppy seed and seven-grain breads served with three types of flavoured butter – unsalted, smoked salmon and mushroom. Our group also shared half dozen of fresh Fines de Claire Oysters (RM60++), Australian Crab Cakes (RM45++), Fresh Angel Hair Pasta with Crustacean Saffron Sauce (RM45++) and Caesar Salad (RM35++).
Served imaginatively on a two-tier glass platter, the oysters were exceptional for their delicate sea-brininess but if you wish, the six accompanying dressings – wasabi mayo, Thai chilli, sour cream, lemon ginger, Tabasco and lemon wedges would certainly add an interesting dimension to them.
The Australian Crab Cakes served with chilli flakes, garlic sauce and mango salsa is an easy way to enjoy tasty crab meat minus the hard work. Forgo pasta as appetizer unless you have an insatiable appetite – the delicious Angel Hair is huge enough to qualify as a main course on its own. The classic Caesar Salad is a better option, prepared and served with a flourish at your tableside.
Special mention must be given to the slow-roasted 80 days grain-fed Australian Prime Rib (300g RM80++, 450g RM110++) which left an indelible impression with its unbelievable melt-in-the-mouth tenderness. Noteworthy accompaniments for this are corn sweet mashed potato, jumbo white and green asparagus, Béarnaise and cracked peppercorn sauce.
My partner’s 120 days 220g Ribeye Steak (RM55++) cooked to medium rare with red warm centre was moist and succulent. Complemented by Morel Cream Sauce and Truffle Mashed Potato (RM15++), it was a match made in heaven.
Prime’s menu is further beefed up with seafood, chicken, lamb and venison. If you want your beef and seafood too, the ubiquitous Surf and Turf (RM120++) would be the ideal solution.
Since we had no room left for decadent desserts such as Gelato, Sticky Date Pudding, Tiramisu and Mango and Coconut Baked Cheesecake, a platter of fresh, imported berries with luxuriously smooth whipped cream brought our meal to a refreshing conclusion.
Prime is definitely worth visiting if you are true-blue steak lover and have no qualms about paying top dollar for great steaks. No bulls about it.
PRIME (pork free)
Level 5 Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur
2 Jalan Stesen Sentral
Reservations 2263 7555
Monday, August 14, 2006
While food reviews keep me constantly satiated and on-the-go, there are some outlets that merit repeat visits. Stan's Assam & Garam at One Bangsar is one of them, thanks in no small measure to Stephanie Saw. Her inherent passion at churning out excellent Malay dishes, albeit with slight twists has caught the imagination of many discerning foodies and their support have probably keep her going.
Nevertheless, these are challenging times for those in the food business. With everyone feeling the pinch, it is good to know all the owners whose outlets form the One Bangsar food haven have collectively came up with a unique promotion that is akin to a mini gourmet safari. At the unbelievable deal of RM28 nett per person, diners can meander along the whole row of fine restaurants in One Bangsar and eat to their hearts' content each Saturday in August.
It's a clever concept that quickly caught local food lovers' imagination. Despite the afternoon heat, more than 150 diners gamely showed up to savour the spread laid out by the ten outlets. We had a great time wandering around and sampling the eclectic mix of Vietnamese, Mediterranean, Italian, Indian, Malay, French, Japanese, Chinese and Thai specialities with refreshing drinks thrown in. While it is a good way of creating much awareness amongst new customers who have yet to discover One Bangsar, remember that it is not totally fair to judge each outlet based on the limited menu they serve up on these occasions. It merely acts as a sneak preview of each outlet's promising, delicious secrets that hopefully will induce return visits.
Of course, hiccups are not unusual for outdoor events of this kind. Firstly, there are too few seats compared to the large number of people - it would have been better if the organisers dispense with formal table seating entirely and just provide adequate seats instead by using portable stools. And for the price of RM28 nett, there are bound to attract quite a few ugly Malaysians who are all out to get their money's worth. That's right, these people never even blink an eye by grabbing and piling up all the food on their own plates the minute it's dished out. Never mind if they can't put it all away and others have yet to get a tiny helping.
Outlet managers and owners too must be conscientious enough to speed up their food replenishment and ensure the interest of paying customers are well looked after, especially when the food is in the process of being prepared or had finished. It's unthinkable of asking diners to return again and again or plead with them to move on to other outlets first. For one, we did move to other outlets and after returning twice just to be disappointed with a rather curt brush-off, we just gave up and walked off. What are the chances of that outlet getting our patronage in the near future? Well, don't hold your breath for this.
Undoubtedly the idea of this moveable feast is filled with superb potential so it'd be a shame if more shortcomings overwhelm the benefits. But each event is a learning experience and I do hope the One Bangsar team will gain invaluable experience and lessons from it.
Longing for Lontong? Here's your solution!
Ice it! Fabulous Ais Batu Campur or ABC
Let’s face it – with the cost of city living keeps creeping up, ardent foodies are forced to dig deep into their pockets and find ways of stretching their hard-earned ringgit.
Fortunately in Malaysia one does not have to look too hard or too far to eat well at budget prices. Street side hawker stalls and informal no-frills eateries abound so local food lovers can still afford to feast like a king on pauper’s prices.
Here’s some of my favourite haunts for simple, cheap and tasty eats.
OODLES OF CHINESE NOODLES
Lau Ti Fang (Old Rendezvous) Parn Mein Stall
Jalan Beremi, Kuala Lumpur
Mon-Sat, 7.30 am – 2.30 pm
This little nondescript stall used to be at the sidewalk across from Fortuna Hotel but has since relocated into a narrow shoplot just across from DBKL’s Little Ain Arabia. The stall still reigns supreme in my book as the gold standard for parn mein, flat flour noodles which I reckon is Chinese-style pasta. Here diners have a choice of the chewy noodles in thin, stringy texture like wantan mee or the flat fettucine type. You can opt to have it served in a delicious ikan bilis (dried anchovies)-based broth with sayur manis and a splendid topping of crispy fried ikan bilis, minced pork, sliced black mushrooms and wood ear fungus. Better still, try the kon lou version where the noodles are tossed in thick, black caramelized sauce. Don’t miss the stall’s ‘killer’ sambal belacan dip. Bouncy fish or meat balls can be added at extra charge. Prices from RM4.50 onwards per plate.
Kak Normah @ N Nasi Lemak (halal)
Dewan Serbaguna Penjaja, Jalan Wirawati Kuala Lumpur
Daily from 7.00 am – 12.00 noon
You won’t get enough of this incredibly tasty dish. The ensemble comprises diced nasi impit (pressed glutinous rice) in a piquant turmeric and coconut gravy filled with long beans, shredded radish, tempe (fermented pressed beancurd cake), strips of fu chook (beancurd sheets), hard-boiled egg wedges, beancurd, sliced cabbage and glass vermicelli. Spicy fish serunding, chunky peanut gravy and a dollop of sweetish sambal add the finishing touches to this superb dish. Other irresistible specialities served here include soto ayam and nasi lemak. Both the lontong and soto cost RM2.50 per plate while nasi lemak biasa costs RM1.00. Side dishes of fried chicken, beef rendang and sotong sambal available at extra charge.
Ah Keong’s ABC Stall
Jalan Padang Belia
Brickfields Kuala Lumpur
Daily 10 am - 7 pm
You can’t miss this little stall in front of the 7-11 store, just one lane behind the YMCA building. Run by a husband and wife team, they are kept busy quenching their multi-racial customers’ thirst for fresh coconut water, cendol, cincau but nothing beats their fantastic ABC or ais batu campur. Regulars nickname their Special ABC (RM2.50 per bowl) the poor man’s artificial shark’s fin – thanks to the succulent strips of young coconut flesh that adorn their colourful and sweet icy concoction. The heap of finely shaved ice, drenched with rose syrup, fragrant gula Melaka syrup and evaporated milk consists of plump Green Giant corn kernels, home-made red bean mash, giant kidney beans, diced black grass jelly or cincau. Perfect for hot sweltering afternoons!
ALL MIXED UP
Mobile Rojak Van in front of Petronas station
Taman Cempaka Ampang
Daily 11 am – 5 pm
This is one local salad that appeals even to non-vege eaters but it takes a good sauce to separate the wheat from the chaff. We have been getting our regular Indian rojak fix from this mobile van since we discovered it by chance earlier this year. For RM3.50 per plate, the mixed salad of chopped prawn fritters, deep-fried flour and coconut fritters, firm beancurd, shredded cucumber and sengkuang (jicama), and hard boiled egg smothered in a scrumptious sweet, nutty and spicy sauce will leave you clamouring for more. You can also get the guy to add on some spicy brown cuttlefish (at additional cost) for extra flavour and texture. Wash it all down with a bowl of ais cendol.
Tuesday, July 18, 2006
^Classic Teochew Delight of Stewed Goose
^Traditional dessert of Mung Bean in Syrup
^Signature of Toh Lee - Goma Pudding with Ice-cream
^Superbly nutritious soup of Duck Wing & Preserved Plum
^Alluring Abalone in eight different preparations
^Crispy & Crunchy Deep-fried Mung Bean Spring Rolls
^Unusual but nice...Abalone Smoked with Chang Wood & Tea
Most Malaysians will invariably think of the ever-popular Teochew porridge, Teochew-style steamed fish and that sticky yam dessert known as or nee whenever the mention of Teochew dishes crop up.
In her book titled The Heritage of Chinese Cooking, renowned Australian Chinese author Elizabeth Chong noted that the Teochew or Chiu Chow (as it known in Cantonese) community originates from Shantou or Swatow, an area about 270 km east of Guangzhou. Their predominantly seafood-based cuisine is similar to the Cantonese albeit with more robust flavours from the use of garlic, fresh and dried lemons, fermented beanpaste and fish sauce.
Having worked for a Singaporean Teochew sifu (master chef), Hotel Nikko’s Chinese Chef C Y Chan is quick to second those facts. With close to two decades of industry experience, Chef Chan is not only well-versed in different aspects of Chinese cuisine, he is also a firm believer in doing certain things like basic soup stock the old-fashioned way.
So if you like a sampling of other Teochew delicacies, Chef Chan has created a small but enticing selection of Teochew dishes such as Teochew-style Stewed Goose, Braised Superior Shark’s Fin and Deep-fried Mung Beans Spring Rolls amongst others for diners to try.
"Some are classical delights while a few are updated interpretations," said Chef Chan.
The crispy Deep-fried Spring Rolls (RM8.00++) reflects the latter as it is filled with mashed skinless mung beans, finely shredded wood’s ear fungus, duck meat and Chinese mushroom. The intermingling of textures and delicate flavours made for interesting eating.
This light yet flavourful vein continues in the sublime soup of Double-boiled Duck Wing with Plum (RM35++). A delicious, nourishing broth that will perk you up instantly, it reminded me of grannie's hum choi tong or salted vegetable soup of my childhood. Subtly imbued with the tanginess of preserved plum and sliced lemon, the tasty soup draws its exquisitely sweet flavours from the sea cucumber, black mushroom and chopped duck wing in it.
I have always enjoyed eating Teochew-style braised duck from street side stalls with the accompaniments of tow foo (beancurd) and hard-boiled eggs. So the classic delicacy of Stewed Goose (RM60++ for half, RM120++ for whole) certainly left more than a favourable impression. It is a superbly elegant dish that not only emphasizes the tender and succulent goose, but also the delicious sauce imbued with the aromatic nuances of Chinese spices.
Other noteworthy Teochew specialities which I'm sure you'd find equally agreeable will be Stir-fried Sliced Chicken with Peppercorns, Scrambled Egg with Baby Oysters, Deep-fried Yam Finger Rolls and Sautéed Vegetables with Dried Sole. Head on over to Toh Lee Restaurant before end of July if you wish to discover a bit more about these terrific dishes.
If you have a penchant for abalone, don’t miss the Abalone Promotion which runs concurrently from now until end August 2006. Citibank card holders will have extra incentive to indulge thanks to Toh Lee’s Buy One Free One deal at RM120++ for any of the outlet's abalone specialities. The unbeatable offer is only valid until July 31, 2006 though.
Master Chef Loh Chon Hor has conjured up eight different preparations using premium Australian abalone exclusively for this promotion. The Braised Whole Abalone with Fish Lip and Garlic is a gourmet’s delight as the abalone’s sweet, complex flavour and smooth flesh which is slightly resistant to the bite was amply complemented by a light sauce. A whole pip of smoked garlic, blanched broccoli florets and sliced fish lips bestowed their own distinctive textures and flavours to the dish but stopped short of eclipsing the gastropod.
Another intriguing creation is the Braised Whole Abalone with ‘Chang’ Wood and Tea. This preparation imbued the shellfish with a discernible smokiness which makes it different from the usual abalone dishes you’d encounter. I reckon it is good enough to eat on its own although the accompanying sweet dip served on the side gives it a unique taste dimension.
The remaining epicurean selection includes Braised Whole Abalone in Brown Sauce, Braised Abalone with Venison Tendon, Braised Abalone with Dried Scallop, Braised Abalone with Goma (Sesame) Cream and Broccoli, Braised Abalone with Sea Cucumber and Chinese Scallion, and Mini Monk Jumps Over The Wall.
Two typical Teochew dessert, Chilled Mung Beans in Syrup (RM8++ per bowl) and Sweetened Yam Paste with Gingko Nuts (RM10++) are available to round off your meal nicely. Alternatively, try Toh Lee’s signature Chilled Goma Pudding with Ice-cream comprising a superbly smooth sesame pudding with its delicate nutty aftertaste.
Located on Level 1 of Hotel Nikko, the elegant ambience of Toh Lee Chinese Restaurant makes it a top draw for corporations and discerning Chinese food lovers. Its polished, unobtrusive service befits the outlet’s understated luxurious setting which includes several beautifully appointed private dining rooms.
TOH LEE CHINESE RESTAURANT (pork-free)
Level 1 Hotel Nikko Kuala Lumpur
165 Jalan Ampang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2782 6128.
Business hours: Daily12 noon to 2.30 pm (lunch) and 6.30 to 10.30 pm (dinner)
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Decadent Chocolate Cake to melt your heart
Sweetbreads to invoke that Fear Factor?
Crusty lamb rack with coucous for meat lovers
Classy fish dish with real Beluga caviar
Dream dish of gooseliver pate - scrumptious!
A French sojourn at Le Bouchon
Step into Le Bouchon and you'd be magically transported to the French countryside - the outlet's homey discreet and cosy décor has all the trappings of a small provincial eatery that reflects the Gallic roots of its proprietor and chef de cuisine Philippe Le Francois.
Le Bouchon is known as somewhat of an institution amongst discerning diners for its traditional, well-cooked French dishes.
“We have a very strong, loyal clientele who like our specialities - hearty, rustic dishes that French people eat on a daily basis and not the nouvelle cuisine dishes that the rest of the world presume we eat. There is a big difference,” said Monsieur Le Francois.
He continues: “The French provincial atmosphere here reminds our guests of the warm hospitality and charming countryside in France. While our food and wine may have the fine-dining approach, local diners are made to feel at ease by our experienced staff. They are always happy to help diners who are unfamiliar with French food with some recommendations."
The quality of food here is proudly held up by an all-Malaysian kitchen team under the owner's guidance. “We offer many timeless, classic dishes that diners expect of a typical French restaurant. Some are modified slightly but subtly to accommodate our guests’ requirements and ensured originality of taste is maintained.
“To some extent, traditional French food is similar to many great Asian cuisines. The French also eats many different things including all parts of a beast to avoid wastage. Hence, adventurous diners can enjoy offal dishes like ox tongue and sweetbreads here. It's unprecedented for a French restaurant in Kuala Lumpur but diners who come here know they can get something different apart from de rigeur French dishes such as coq au vin and duck-leg confit.”
This distinctive trait was aptly reflected in the special appetizer of Veal Sweetbreads (calf’s thymus gland). I felt like one of the Fear Factor participants as the sweetbread’s delicate, chewy texture was definitely an acquired taste. Or perhaps it was my own overactive imagination wreaking havoc on my normally adventurous tastebuds...
Personally I’d highly recommend Les Escargots De Bourgogne (RM30++) and La Terrine De Foie Gras (RM48++). The Burgundy snails were notable for its accompanying creamy spinach sauce. Smooth and luxuriant, the homemade goose liver terrine is lifted to greater heights by the subtle, caramelized sweetness of the onion jam. Spread onto toasted sour dough bread slices, it is hard to stop at just one slice.
Other gourmet options to start with include Pan-fried Goose Liver served with Grape and Apple Glace, Roasted Unpasteurised Goat Cheese with Honey, Mixed Salad and Sautéed Apples, and the ultimate Russian Beluga Caviar with Toasted Canapés, Sour Cream, Chopped Onion and Egg.
I chose Grilled Triple Candied Rack of Lamb Provencale on Light Mint Glaze (RM78++) for the main course while my partner accepted the chef’s suggestion of Poached Seabass Fillet and Prawn Brochette with Smoked Salmon and Dill Sauce on Tagliatelle (RM98++).
The lamb was cooked to medium doneness as requested but it was surprisingly quite tough to cut. However, I liked the crisp, outer crust of mustard and breadcrumbs. Happily the fish fared very well and it has nothing to do with the precious pearls of Beluga caviar on top. Having sampled two mouthfuls of the exquisite creation, my partner cleaned out his plate despite him not being a great fish fan!
Again if you are one of those who enjoy exotic stuff, try the Braised Ox Tongue with Gherkins, Mushrooms and Madeira Sauce (RM68++). Equally popular amongst Le Bouchon’s regulars are the Sirloin of Beef with Tarragon and Butter Sauce, Crispy Salmon Escalopes and Beef Fillet topped with Sliced Pan-fried Goose Liver and Sautéed Perigord Winter Black Truffle.
Dessert comprised Mouelleux au Chocolat (RM32++), a decadent chocolate cake with a molten Valrhona Chocolate centre accompanied by a scoop of Vanilla Ice-cream. It is advisable to order this at the start of your meal as the kitchen team needs at least 20 minutes to whip up this sublime dessert. Caramelized apple tart, crème brulee, poached pear William in red wine, flavoured chocolate sponge cake and mascarpone, chocolate profiteroles and crème brulee make up the remaining sweet treats.
Le Bouchon’s full á la carte menu undergones changes every few months whilst weekly specials for both food and wine are also offered via a four-course Gourmet Menu (RM148++) and a three-course Menu Terroir (RM108++). The staff here is warm and friendly, and knowledgeable about the many specialities served.
A special menu will be available at Le Bouchon to commemorate the forthcoming French national day on July 14. Known as Fête nationale or 14 Juillet in France (generally referred to as Bastille Day in English), colourful parades are held during the day followed by magnificent fireworks at night. But as noted by Le Figaro, France’s renowned newspaper, throughout France "people feasted a lot to honour the Bastille". Oui, food is indeed part and parcel of life – in France, it’s synonymous with the good life.
Le Bouchon (pork-free)
14&16 Changkat Bukit Bintang
50450 Kuala Lumpur
Tel: +603 2142 7633
Fax: +603 2142 7633
Opening hours – Tuesday to Friday 12 noon to 2 pm (lunch)
Tuesday to Sunday 7 pm to 10.30 pm (dinner)
Closed on Mondays
Wednesday, May 31, 2006
South African Abalone with deep-fried shredded ginger
and oyster sauce
Wong Keong Fook's self-made success in the seafood business is testimony to his two decades long of sheer hard work and determination. From his humble beginnings in freshwater fish farming, Wong has emerged as possibly Malaysia’s biggest seafood importer, wholesaler and owner of the popular Unique Seafood restaurant in Petaling Jaya, Selangor.
Wong started his seafood importing business started when the restaurant and hotel industry customers asked him for more variety in his seafood supply besides freshwater fish. Using his experience and aquaculture expertise, Wong began procuring fresh, live and unusual seafood from overseas to fulfill the industry demands. Today Unique Seafood is the most notable supplier in town that offers the widest, freshest and most distinctive variety of imported seafood – not only to industry players but also to ordinary seafood lovers.
With three restaurants in Malaysia, one in Singapore and another in Jakarta, Indonesia, Unique sells prized catches of fish, crustaceans and shellfish at reasonable prices.
The Unique Seafood Restaurant itself is quite a draw in itself – diners are presented with a cornucopia of fish, clams, crabs, lobsters, molluscs and other exotic edible underwater denizens to choose from, kept in ascending rows of huge glass display tanks. The ambience is akin to that of a bustling seafood market where customers can watch their preferred catch being weighed, cleaned and cooked to order as part of the restaurant’s open concept.
Lest you think dining at Unique Seafood is only for the rich, Wong is savvy enough to dispel this misconception by offering something to everyone, whether they are young or old, rich or middle class, corporate or family, seafood lovers or not. Consequently, the outlet offers pocket-friendly value lunches (RM48.80++ onwards) and set dinners (RM398++ onwards) for the budget-conscious. You can even enjoy their daily dim sum at 50 percent discount.
In view of rising prices and everyone feeling the pinch on their pockets, it can still be viable to dine at Unique Seafood. Just opt for one or two indulgent seafood specialities and supplement your meal with other more affordably priced dishes.
For those where money is of no object when it comes to savouring King Neptune’s treasures, the Fried Boston Lobster with Garlic and Cheese (RM138 per kg with RM30 cooking charge) is highly recommended. Apparently this price is unrivalled anywhere else in the Klang Valley. The king of shellfish certainly lived up to expectations – the flavourful cheese sauce, subtly imbued with minced garlic is light enough for us to discern the lobster’s freshness and naturally sweet flavour.
Unique’s signature preparation of braising seafood with golden superior stock is equally outstanding. A concoction of carrot juice, dried scallop and superior chicken stock, the splendid sauce certainly emphasizes the Alaskan King Crabs’ inherently clear, sweet taste. At the current promotion price of RM178 per kg (normal price at RM208/kg), it is by no means cheap but if you want a seafood dish out of the ordinary, this crab is worth its weight in gold. The one we had weighed a hefty 2.2kg so whilst one half was Braised in Golden Superior Stock, the other half was Baked with Salted Egg. Needless to say we thoroughly enjoyed every bit of this delectable dish – from the rich, gritty salted egg yolk coating on the carapace to the chunks of stringy yet succulent flesh of this gigantic crab.
Personally I found the Deep-fried Shredded Ginger and Oyster Sauce topping for the South African Abalone (RM24.80 per pc) a tad overwhelming. I presume the combination was intended to temper the abalone’s overly fishy flavour but in this instance, the ginger, oyster sauce and shredded spring onion were too overpowering for this delicate gastropod.
The humongous Baked Canadian Oysters with Cheese (RM7.50 per pc) were sinfully indulgent and impossible to devour in a single mouthful. Fortunately, the molluscs remained sweet and succulent on the palate in spite of the melted cheese on top.
Our only non-seafood dish for the evening was Fried Kailan in Two Styles – the leafy part was finely shredded and deep-fried, rendering them crisp and crunchy. Topped with some tiny silver anchovies, they provided good textural contrast with the tender, stir-fried kai lan (Chinese kale) stalks.
Non-seafood dishes are just as extensive and varied in the menu. Honey lamb chops, ostrich in black pepper sauce, venison in Unique sauce, noodles and rice dishes are tasty options to consider and will appease those who want some balance and variety to their meal. The restaurant also has a selection of fine wines available but should you decide to bring your own wine, there is no corkage charge.
Wong assures us that diners will always have the option of more affordable seafood such as Red Tilapia, blood cockles and kepah (local clams) besides more exotic and luxurious items of Scottish razor clams, Australian rock lobsters, French turbot, rainbow grouper and Canadian geoduck clams. Cooking styles vary with prices hovering around RM30 and above.
With such careful considerations for customers, is it any surprise that Unique Seafood Restaurant was recently voted by readers of a Klang Valley-based magazine as their ‘Favourite Seafood Restaurant’?
UNIQUE SEAFOOD RESTAURANT (pork-free)
Lot 9B-3 Jalan Kemajuan
46200 Petaling Jaya Selangor
Tel: 7960 2088, 7960 2066
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Grilled Pork Chops anyone?
Yumlicious Pork Knuckles - try it or you'll regret it!
What's more British than good ol' Fish & Chips?
Bangers & Mash to kick-start your meal
Not many outlets can survive the cut-throat F&B business in Bangsar but the Ronnie Q pub has been through it all. A popular hangout for expatriates and local pub-goers who are also great cricket, football and rugby fans, Ronnie Q’s has succeeded where many other pretenders to the F&B scene here has failed.
Not one to rest on its laurels, the Ronnie Q’s management is canny enough to evolve with the times and figured they might was well have their regulars stay on for dinner instead of losing them to other eateries. Hence, the transformation of one section of its pub into small, intimate dining area to serve up typical British pub specialities.
Scotsman Sandy Alan Rowe is in charge of dishing out Bangers and Mash, Pork Chops, Fish and Chips, Pork Knuckle and Steaks amongst others for lunch and dinner. With 23 years of experience, the Glasglow-born chef likes nothing more than dishing up those good ol' Blighty nosh.
Precursors include the famous Colonial delight, Mulligatawny (English-style spicy and sour ‘rasam’ soup) and Cream of Mushroom (RM12++), a blend of button and oyster mushroom, thickened with potato to achieve the soup’s light, creamy texture and delicate flavour.
If you're batty about Bangers and Mash (RM22++), then you'd polish off the one here in a twinkling. Made in the typical Cumberland-style with finely minced pork and mixed herbs, the long, spiral sausage is grilled and served with mashed potato and sautéed fresh vegetables. The onion gravy is so good I was tempted to lick the plate clean.
If you're a Porky Pig fan, then the Pork Knuckle (RM28++) will be right down your lane. Perfectly grilled, the thick slices of meaty, tender knuckles come drenched in brown roast gravy. Even though the kitchen team mistakenly served ours with a balsamic demi-glace, it turned out to be a blessing in disguise. We found the sauce's slightly caramelized, tangy nuances lent an unusual, well-rounded edge to the dish so all was forgiven.
Aah...even the traditional Fish and Chips (RM18.50++) turns out to be a winning bet - chunky Dory fillets enveloped in ultra-crisp beer batter accompanied by thickly cut chips, coleslaw and crisp garden greens. Other house delicacies to sink your teeth into include Grilled Pork Chops, juicy Ribeye and Tenderloin Steaks, Rack of Lamb, Beef and Ale Stew with Dumplings, Ronnie Q’s BLT Sandwich and Spaghetti with Meatballs.
Pudding options are rather limited unless you settle for the Apple and Cinnamon Crumble or any of its three Gateaus (cakes) of the Day.
Sunday brunch is served from 10.30 am onwards featuring Brunch in a Skillet – back bacon, pork banger, grilled tomato, sautéed mushrooms, fried potatoes and a three-egg omelette, cooked and served in a skillet. For those who prefer a Scottish twist, there is the Ploughman’s Brunch of Scotch eggs, aged cheddar, crusty bread and Braston pickles.
Service is casual and friendly as befitting the pub setting. Sports enthusiasts will have a field day admiring the personal collection of cricket, football and rugby memorabilia belonging to the pub owner himself, Ronnie Quay. But even if you’re not, it’s still worthwhile to toddle along to Ronnie Q’s for a nosh-up of good ol’ Blighty grub.
RONNIE Q’s PUB AND RESTAURANT (non-halal)
32 Jalan Telawi Dua
59100 Kuala Lumpur
Monday, May 15, 2006
Crabs in Hot & Pungent Garlic Chilli Sauce
Zingy Black Pepper Crabs
Beyond expectations - Crabs in Thai Milk Sauce
Tantalising Sweet & Sour Crabs
Let's face it - Malaysian seafood lovers are just crazy over crabs.
But where to go to satisfy that crab cravings without burning a hole in your pocket? Hotel Equatorial KL-lah!
For a mere RM35++ per person you can have your fill of local mud crabs, Sri Lankan crabs, Australian king crabs or Dungeness crabs at the hotel's Nipah CoffeeShop. For RM45++, you can dig in at the Golden Phoenix restaurant. Now I bet any seafood lover worth his salt can tell that these are unbeatable deals as under ordinary circumstances, one would probably end up with just a kilo of crabs at any reputable reataurants within the Klang Valley.
From now until June 15, 2006, the enticing Crabs Galore promotion at Nipah CoffeeShop offers irresistible appetizers, starters and main dishes using crabmeat, crabstick and live crabs. If you wish to have the whole hog, it's RM75++ per person for the entire buffet.
Start off with light palate teasers such as Crab Tartar and Carrot Mousse, Crab Samosa, Spicy Crab Cakes with Red Curry Paste, Warm Crab Cakes with Spicy Remoulade Sauce and Crabstick Salad with Melon. Then get the chefs to cook soft shell crabs, King Crabs, mud crabs and even imported Dungeness crabs according to your liking and choice of sauces at the live cooking station .
Our top picks include Sweet and Sour Sri Lankan crabs with a fabulously piquant sauce that emphasizes the natural sweetness of the cooked crabs. Another favourite that hits the spot was the Stir-fried Mud Crabs with Black Pepper Sauce – the full-bodied, peppery hot sauce went a long way in perking up the fresh, meaty crabmeat extracted from their shells.
We found the soft shell crabs made for easy eating but choose the accompanying sauce carefully as their delicate taste can be easily drowned out by more robust sauces.
Over at the Golden Phoenix Chinese restaurant, Chef Lai Ah Ngan's saucy concoctions include Thai Milk Sauce, Black Bean, Butter Sauce, Thai Chilli, Assam Sauce, X.O. Sauce, Chilli Garlic, Dried Prawn ‘Sambal’ or even Salt-Baked. Enjoy unlimited servings of these scrumptious crabs for dinner from May 8 to 21.
Thanks to the fleshy Australian Mud Crabs, the crustaceans tasted heavenly in the creamy and spicy Thai Milk Sauce. Redolent with curry leaves and aromatic Thai spices, the light yet flavourful sauce was so scrumptious we mopped it up with steamed flower rolls and crusty slices of French baguette.
My favourite dish out of the whole lot was local Mud Crabs in Butter Sauce. We had a field day munching on the fine, crispy deep-fried strands of egg, deliciously enhanced with fragrant curry leaves.
The Black Bean Sauce was a little more unusual and distinctively Oriental but great nonetheless. Personally I found the ones fried with Sambal Dried Shrimps overly salty but those who prefer spicier, bolder taste will have no complaints.
So go on and indulge; you'd probably enjoy dealing with this load of crabs - not crap - for once ;-))
Nipah CoffeeShop (pork-free)
Golden Phoenix Chinese Restaurant (pork-free)
Hotel Equatorial Kuala Lumpur
Jalan Sultan Ismail
50250 Kuala Lumpur
Reservations: 2161 7777
Tuesday, April 25, 2006
Welcome to Sari Indah...
Irresistible curries, stews and other delights await!
Ayam Goreng Bumbu - love at first bite!
Nasi Padang is probably West Sumatra’s most popular export. Originating from a town called Padang, it is a specialty of the Minangkabau community that encompasses a wide variety of dishes, ranging from hot, spicy curries to mild, aromatic stews and deep-fried delicacies eaten with white rice.
Now a group of local entrepreneurs aims to conquer Malaysians' tastebuds with their first Nasi Padang restaurant, Sari Indah in Alamanda Shopping Centre, Putrajaya. Executive director, Mohd Najib Abdul Aziz, who first got into the food business with a D’Tandoor franchised outlet, is hoping to evolve further with his latest venture. Together with his three best buddies, they decided that a Nasi Padang restaurant is the most feasible due to its distinctiveness, great appeal and growth potential.
Consequently, the four partners picked Sari Indah, which is famed for its authentic and tasty Minang-Indonesian food. Since opening its doors here in September last year, the first Sari Indah restaurant in Malaysia has enjoyed brisk business.
“Besides the civil servant crowd from Putrajaya, we have many Chinese customers who come specially for typical Minang delicacies like Gulai Tunjang (beef tendons in mildly spiced gravy), Ayam Goreng Bumbu (deep-fried chicken with spiced marinade) and Rendang Minang (beef cooked in a dry-style curry),” said Mohd Najib.
The kitchen team comprises Indonesian and local chefs whilst many of the herbs and spices are imported from Indonesia. Unlike in Indonesia where the use of monosodium glutamate (MSG) is quite prevalent, the soup stock, stews and sauces here are made using bones, herbs and spices.
On the average, diners can expect 20 'must have' dishes such as Ayam Kampung Bakar (roast free-range chicken), Dendeng Daging Balado (dried spiced beef with red chilli), Pergedil (fried potato patties), Gado-gado (Indonesian-style salad with peanut sauce), Ayam Kampung Pop (grilled free-range chicken), Gulai Tunjang, Asam Padeh Tenggiri (spicy and sour fish curry), Telur Dadar (spiced omelette) and Ayam Kampung Gulai (spicy curry chicken) amongst others on the main menu.
In addition, ten other specialties are served on rotational basis daily, giving regulars a chance to sample something different on each visit. These include Soto Padang (spiced Padang soup), Sambal Cumi (squid in spicy sauce), Gulai Babat (stewed cow’s stomach), Ikan Pepes (steamed spicy minced fish in banana leaves), Sayur Singkong Lemak (cassava leaves in mildly spiced coconut gravy), Paru Goreng (deep-fried cow’s lungs), Pucuk Paku Tumis (stir-fried fern shoots), Gulai Nangka (young jackfruit in coconut gravy) and Ikan Talapia Bakar (grilled fish). However, uncommon delicacy like the Gulai Otak (braised cow’s brains in spiced stew) is harder to come by so if you wish to savour this, be sure to notify the outlet in advance.
The outlet boasts of a modern interior with lots of cosy touches in the form of dark wood, bamboo and stone accents. To complete the dining experience, Sari Indah adheres to the true service-style of a typical Nasi Padang restaurant – staff will bring an array of small, varied dishes to the customer’s table, balancing the plates along the length of their arms.
While it may take some getting used to, diners just have to select their preferred dishes and the rest will be returned to the kitchen. Another point to remember is the various dishes are served cool as Indonesians usually eat their food this way unlike the Chinese who expect their dishes to be piping hot. Happily, the plethora of dishes passed the taste test as our Indonesian friend thoroughly enjoyed the feast of home-style delights.
The Gulai Tunjang was memorable for the beef tendon’s succulent texture complemented by a piquant spiced gravy. I found the Gulai Babat (Perut) a tad strong for my liking so this is an acquired taste.
Crispy yet flavourful, the Dendeng Daging Balado left an indelible impression with its robust red chilli topping. Other noteworthy dishes include Ayam Kampung Gulai, Ayam Goreng Bumbu, Sambal Ijo (green chilli sambal) and Ikan Talapia Bakar (grilled fish in spiced marinade).
Side orders and starters are priced between RM2.00 and RM5.00 each plate, main meat and fish dishes between RM5.00 and RM23.00, and vegetable dishes from RM4.00 onwards.
Dessert is not prominently featured but the outlet’s chilled concoctions such as Es Teler, Es Sari Manda, Es Cendol, Jus Alpukat, Jus Terung Belanda, Jus Sirsak and Jus Tomel are adequate enough to keep sweet-toothed customers happy.
SARI INDAH (halal)
Lot G90 Ground Floor
Alamanda Putrajaya Shopping Centre
Jalan Alamanda, Precinct 1
Tel: 8888 8551
Monday, March 27, 2006
Cheesy Bites of Scallops laced with aromatic herbs
Nice & Spicy ...Kupang Pandanus Rice
Owner of Kafe Herb Spice, Diana Koh says she is the walking MSG (monosodium glutamate) detector! As an importer and distributor of frozen seafood, Koh started Kafe Herb Spice two years ago after suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
“I traced my IBS to food allergies. Now I can only consume dishes that are gluten-free, low in salt, without preservatives, artificial flavourings or MSG,” she said.
Some of her customers who purchase imported frozen seafood from her shop have similar health problems and special dietary concerns. Many shared their experiences and healthy cooking tips with her . In return she taught them how to prepare the unfamiliar fishes and seafood. Soon they asked to her to stock ready-to-cook offerings that can be conveniently taken away. This service soon evolved into the present café.
She said, “Due to today’s fast-paced lifestyle, many of us opt for fast, cheap and convenient food spiked with lots of salt and MSG. However, we are jeopardizing our health unwittingly. At Kafe Herb Spice, we adhere to the traditional practice of using natural herbs and spices to flavour food, just like how our mothers and grandmothers used to do. Our ready-to-cook dishes are prepared in-house without any MSG, preservatives or artificial flavouring. Likewise, our café menu emphasizes low-salt and freshly prepared dishes.”
Although the outlet is rather sparse in its décor, the casual setting is comfortable enough for its weekday office and weekend family crowd. Bearing in mind the many constraints the chef has to work with, we had nothing but praise for the dishes that were served. Its extensive menu covers a surprisingly wide range of Asian and Continental dishes.
The Cheddar Butter Scallops (RM10.90 for half dozen) served in their half shells and topped with herb and cheese sauce were excellent. Oozing with enticing herbal and cheesy flavours, the succulent shellfish were an instant hit with us. Equally noteworthy were the creamy soups – a choice of Mushroom or Pumpkin or the soup du jour. On the day we went, the café won us over with its sublime Cream of Cauliflower. Despite the soup’s smooth texture, Koh assures us that very little cream is used in the preparation.
“We have our own tricks of the trade to acquire the creamy texture and bring out the food’s real flavour, so it’s ok for you to indulge your tastebuds here,” she quipped.
If you are partial to Assam Laksa, the wholesome version here will whet your appetite. Right now it’s quite a steal at RM6.90 – as part of Kafe Herb Spice’s Asian Delights Lunch Special. Made from flaked Norwegian mackerel which lent the tangy gravy an appetizing ‘fishy’ flavour, the laksa rice noodles come with chunky, shredded Pakistani mackerel, fine strips of cucumber and pineapple, sliced onion, torch ginger flower and red chilli, mint leaves and a side dish of hae kor (prawn paste).
Other Asian delicacies that you may wish to sample are Nasi Lemak Chicken Rendang, Curry Laksa Marinara, Singapore Fried Meehoon and Lamb Briyani Rice.
Kafe Herb Spice shows that it is possible to prepare rich, flavourful curries without coconut milk. Its healthy yet immensely tasty curry is served with the Kupang Pandanus Rice (RM12.90). An Indonesian-style delicacy, the one-dish meal comprises pandan-flavoured rice with crispy fried chicken, spicy sambal, hardboiled egg, papadum crackers and mango-vegetables achar (pickles). Even the heartiest eaters will be replete after having this.
Prefer something Westernised? Then the Venison Shank (RM19.90) will be right down your lane. Meltingly tender meat that is almost falling off the bone is further enhanced with a mouth-watering mixed herb sauce. Complemented by soft mashed potato and fresh salad in a light, citrusy dressing, this substantial dish is ideal for sharing.
Families with children can consider the Snow White Spaghetti (RM9.90), a delightful spaghetti dish with creamy seafood sauce.
Besides frozen seafood such as cod, salmon, John Dory, scallops, sea cucumber and green lip mussels, check out the shop’s selection of ready-to-cook local and Western dishes conveniently packed in takeaway, microwave-safe containers. Considering the painstaking preparation that has gone into them, the prices are reasonable.
Although Koh has received lucrative offers to expand her healthy café concept into major shopping malls and as a full-fledged eatery, she prefers to concentrate at ensuring her food remains consistently up to par and high quality for now.
“I am very particular about this business because it’s not easy to adhere to so many stipulations when it comes to food preparation. Quality comes at a price. My business partners will have to share and sustain the same passion, outlook and enthusiasm with no compromise to the concept. I can’t risk anyone cutting corners after a while in pursuit of quick returns. They must be in it for the long haul,” she concluded.
KAFE HERB SPICE (pork-free)
89 Jalan SS15/4C
Tel: 5637 4549/4579
Fax: 5638 4651
Business hours : Tuesday-Thursday 11 am – 7 pm
Friday & Saturday 11 am – 10 pm
Sunday 6 pm – 10 pm
Closed on Monday
Thursday, March 02, 2006
Whip, chill & serve!
This is my signature dessert whenever I get invited for 'makan' with friends or when I host family and friends at home. A couple of friends have tried their hands at making it using this recipe so I daresay it's a fail-proof recipe ;-))
2 packets of savoiardi (Italian sponge fingers - 12 pcs in each pack)
2 tubs of mascarpone cheese (250 g each)
300ml of freshly-brewed coffee of your choice
3 eggs (alternatively use 2 eggs + 200 ml whipping cream)
2 tablespoons of Bailey's Irish Cream (alternatively use 1 tbsp of brandy)
3 tablespoons of sugar
2 teaspoons of cocoa powder
some grated chocolate (optional)
- Separate egg yolks from egg white into different bowls.
- Beat egg yolks while adding sugar little by little to it. Whisk until sugar has been used up and mixture turns pale cream in colour.
- If you are using whipping cream, add it in at this point. Whip on high speed using a handheld mixer until the cream turns smooth, fluffy and well incorporated with egg & sugar mixture. (Note: If you prefer not to use eggs for this recipe, it is ok to use whipped cream only. Just whip cream on medium speed until light and fluffy, sprinkling sugar into the mixture as you go along. However, I find eggs do give the dessert a nicer, more flavourful 'eggy' taste.)
- Fold (not stir) in mascarpone cheese gently. (Tip - I used the lowest speed on my handheld mixer to blend this evenly).
- Then whip egg whites (I use the highest speed on my mixer) until they turn shiny white and stiff. (Tip - to check if the egg whites are stiff enough, just turn your mixing bowl upside down. Believe me, they won't budge or fall off from the bowl! If the whites are still sliding around when you tip the bowl even just a little, continue the whipping process.)
- Fold egg white mixture gently into the earlier cheese/egg/cream mixture. Do not flatten the whites too much as this will drive the 'air' out.
- Pour coffee into a wide width bowl and add Bailey's Irish Cream or your choice of liqueur to it. Stir well.
- Dip each piece of savoiardi (horizontally) into the liquer-laced coffee. (Tip - It is best to let only half of the sponge fingers soak up the coffee or else they can turn too soggy. Alternatively you can line the sponge fingers at the base of your container and brush the top generously with the coffee mixture.)
- Line these coffee-laced sponge fingers at the bottom of a rectangular serving dish as the base of your tiramisu.
- Pour some of the mascarpone cheese mixture onto the sponge fingers to cover them adequately. If desired, smoothen the creamy layer and sprinkle some grated dark chocolate on top. This will give the dessert an unexpected chocolatey taste.
- Continue layering another batch of coffee-soaked sponge fingers on top of the creamy cheese mixture.
- Cover this layer with the balance of the cheese mixture and garnish with more grated chocolate.
- Chill tiramisu in the fridge for at least an hour or more. Dust the top with cocoa powder prior to serving.
Final note: if you want to reduce the sugar by half a tablespoon, I reckon it won't affect the taste too much. Also I'd prefer to use stronger coffee as the taste comes through clearer. If you don't want the bother of brewing your own coffee, buy a takeaway cup from your favourite coffee outlet!
I hope you will enjoy this fabulously indulgently smooth, rich and heavenly treat!
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