Monday, December 26, 2011


Here's an overview of the good eats we discovered and enjoyed throughout our stay in Japan. As we all know, the Japanese takes great pride in their food - from the preparation and selection of ingredients to the final presentation and choice of crockery.

Grilled chicken and seafood salad from one of the many eateries in Tokyo Disneyland
The pork cutlet and chocolate cake were so scrumptious although I only managed to sneak a tiny bite

These sweet, juicy and fragrant strawberries went down a real treat
A set dinner of grilled eel with rice and fried fish in breadcrumbs
Simple but so delicious...Oyakodon - grilled chicken with egg and onion over rice
Our set lunch at one of the little Japanese eateries in the Asakusa area
Rice topped with Yakitori (minus the skewer) and minced chicken with condiments
My mini set lunch at about RM60 came complete with pickles, salad and udon plus a free flow of hot & cold drinks

In Kyoto, we found rows and rows of rustic little shops that lined the gentle slope that leads all the way to the Kiyomizu Temple. Proffering everything from souvenirs and crafts to traditional delicacies, we had a field day sampling specialities such as matcha (green tea) ice cream, pancakes, rice crackers and mochi (glutinous rice balls with filling).

This lady is making a type of sweet crispy biscuits similar to kuih kapit in Kyoto
A traditional sweet shop that produces a traditional confection that has tissue-thin glutinous rice skins (sometimes flavoured with matcha) filled with red bean paste and folded into triangles

Asakusa is another shopping and good eats haven - the whole street leading to another historic temple is choc-a-block with assorted shops that attract hordes of visitors. The cornucopia of sounds, sights and smells can be totally absorbing and exhilarating especially for first-timers like us.

Possibly one of Japan's most iconic photo opp spots at Asakusa
These sticks of chewy confections attract long queues of visitors daily
More tempting confections to sample
Goodies'd be spoilt for choice
Rice crackers made on premise
Look at these wide array of rice crackers available
This chef patiently fills red bean paste by hand for little moulded sponge cakes
Don't they look splendid? The final outcome once the dainty cakes are ready to go

Coming up next...more good eats in the form of sushi, ramen and some home-cooked delights!

Saturday, December 24, 2011


An eye-catching Hello Kitty snack kiosk inside Universal Studios Japan
Fancy some piping Hello Kitty buns anyone? 

In Japan kawaii or cuteness sells like cakes! Of course it helps that the food is oishi (delicious) too. Coupled with the Japanese masterful art of packaging, how can anyone resist from lugging home packs and packs of confectionery, cakes, pickles, tea, pastries, seaweed and even fish cake?

Onigiri - Japanese rice balls are quick, tasty and convenient to eat when you're pressed for time
While waiting to get into Universal Studios, we decided to breakfast on some Onigiri - Japanese rice balls that feature different fillings from a little kiosk adjacent to the theme park entrance. Mine was packed with Takoyaki - Osaka's favourite snack of piping hot batter balls filled with chopped octopus! Laced with mayo, a sweetish tangy sauce and lots of bonito flakes, they hit the spot in the chilly weather.

Hungry like Snoopy? Stop for a bite at this Peanuts-themed cafe at Universal Studios
Whimsical snacks featuring Snoopy and the Peanuts gang to keep hunger pangs at bay
Pop corn tubs adorned with Elmo on the lid and a flashing Christmas tree within
Once inside, we discovered how irresistible the kawaii factor is. Whether it's a burger and fries from the cafe or a tub of pop corn from the many kiosks that dot the place, you'd happily fork out money to indulge the child in you.

Fresh waffle are made and sold on the spot at this rustic Elmo-themed shop
Lovely to see and eat...miniature Hello Kitty & Daniel cakes
Make no mistake about it...Hello Kitty is HUGE in Japan. The top cat icon touts everything from phone dangles and jewellery to candies and rice cakes. We spotted these adorable kai tan koh (eggy sponge cakes) filled with red bean paste in Universal Studios and later we'd find many more food items with this cute kitty image on the packaging everywhere we go.

Have a ball in Osaka with different variations of Takoyaki
Great balls of ... Takoyaki 
In Osaka, Takoyaki reigns supreme. There's even a little Osaka Takoyaki Museum next to Universal Studios!

These batter balls similar in size to golf balls are cooked in moulded pans with bits of chopped tako (octopus) in them. Toppings vary from stall to stall and can range from seaweed strips, katsuoboshi (shaved bonito flakes) and mayonnaise to spring onion, crispy tempura batter bits and ponzu (tangy citrus-based BBQ sauce).

A map depicting takoyaki hot pots in Osaka
Entrance to the Osaka Takoyaki Museum

Trust me these taste waaayyyy better than they look ^^

Cute bear cakes and luscious cakes in a patisserie in Osaka
We also noticed that the Japanese have a penchant for French-inspired pastries and cakes. Throughout our trip we came across scores of boulangeries and patisseries that proffer the most divine cakes, rustic breads and meticulously crafted sweet confections that are a sight to behold and a dream to savour.

In keeping with the Yuletide spirit, sweets in Santa and snowmen shapes

This cream puff is from Beard Papa's! The real deal in Japan...yummylicious!!!
Little cakes moulded in the form of popular Japanese cartoons are always hot

More photos and notes on our Japanese culinary expeditions coming soon! In the meantime, Merry Christmas to all my followers and blog readers! *hugs*

Monday, December 12, 2011


'Tis the season to eat, drink and be merry! You'd be spoilt for choice at Dorsett Regency as Executive Chef KK Yau and his team will be offering three celebratory options: an exquisite Christmas Eve set dinner at Cellini's, a lavish buffet at Checker's Cafe or relish a takeaway Tandoori Turkey from the comfort of your own home.

Weighing about 4kg each, the spiced marinated turkey proves to be a nice change from the Continental version; its meat well-imbued by a heady mix of aromatic spices. Stuffed with briyani rice, vegetable and pickles, the delectable offering also comes with chestnut and onion stuffing, cranberry jelly and giblet gravy. Each bird costs RM208++ and orders can be collected from Checker's Cafe.

The entrance of Cellini's...a small but cosy haven for Italian delights

The delicious Pasta La Verdura is worth tangling with
If you prefer a more intimate celebration, Cellini's the place to revel in a sumptuous set menu that blend imported winter ingredients and Euro-Mediterranean culinary accents.

The appetiser of Pasta La Verdura comprises al dente spaghettini with thread-like strands of Vegetable Pasta accompanied by Thyme and Dill Jelly and topped with pepper-crusted Tuna Tartare with pieces of sweet, poached Lobster.

Christmas Fennel & Fish Soup is served with some dramatic flair
Admittedly, I'm no a big fan of fennel but this herb is put to good use for the Christmas Fennel and Fish Soup. Definitely a heartwarming broth for the soul, we lapped up every drop of the wonderful concoction that had fennel, tomato, onion, potato and slivers of sole and snapper in it. The succulent Poached Cod fillet on top is adorned with Spinach Veloute (a gelatine-based reduction of spinach, stock and flour with parsley, garlic and extra virgin olive oil).

To cleanse and prime the palate for the main course, you'd enjoy a Mango Sorbet, a refreshing scoop of frozen mango juice with bits of the actual fruit in it.

The main course proffers Confit of Norwegian Salmon and Moist Confit of Salmon with Spinach Veloute; both cooked the sous vide way - a slow cooking process at precisely controlled temperatures. The piece of salmon sprinkled with edible floral petals in the foreground of the pix is cooked at 40 degrees Celsius, ensuring the fish remains tender and succulent with a lightly flaky core.

For the latter, it's cooked at 80 degrees Celsius; wrapped in a layer of sliced gratinated potato that renders it paler but no less richer on the palate. If fish is not your cup of tea, the alternative main course is Roast Turkey with all its customary trimmings.

All of us also had a slice or two of the irresistible Tandoori Turkey once it was carved at our table. Bringing curtains down for the evening is traditional Christmas Plum Pudding with Vanilla Sauce followed by some pralines and coffee/tea.

Lusciously indulgent...just a small piece of the Plum Pudding is enough to satisfy
Death by chocolate...pralines to wrap up our dinner on a sweet note
The Cellini's Christmas Eve Set Dinner is priced RM198++ per person inclusive of a free flow of sparkling wine, beer, soft drinks and juices.

Hearty eaters who prefer to go the whole hog may want to head for Checker's Cafe festive spread on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Chef Yau's team very kindly trotted out a selection of dishes from the buffet to give us an idea of what's in store for diners.

From roast turkey to tantalising appetisers of fish and seafood, you'd be spoilt for choice as there will be over 40 scrumptious specialities in the tempting line-up.

Feast to your hearts' content at the Christmas Eve or Christmas Day Buffet Dinner at RM98++ per person. Also available is a Christmas Day Brunch priced at RM70++ per person.

For reservations, please call Cellini's or Checker's Cafe, tel: 03-2716 1000 x 188. Dorsett Regency Hotel is located a stone's throw away from the main Bukit Bintang shopping belt.

Thursday, December 08, 2011



Chef Wan's latest tome, The Best of Chef Wan (the Bahasa Malaysia version is Selera Chef Wan) marks two major milestones in the renowned chef's life: his 25th year in the culinary field and his mother's 80th birthday.

Held at Kitchen Culture, Bangsaria, the book launch was a cosy affair with his family and friends showing up in full force in addition to the local media to support him.

Ever obliging, outspoken and talking nineteen to the dozen, Chef Wan was a laugh a minute; his candour remarks and rapid-fire chatter kept everyone in stitches with an occasional gasp and mock horror thrown into the mix.

The affable chef paid special tribute to his sprightly mother, labelling the real 'chef one' while he himself is chef number two. Recalling the days when he helped out by selling kuihs, Chef Wan affirms that his mentor and inspiration would always be his dearest mother.

"Cooking is about sharing, respecting nature and connecting with people," says Malaysia's food ambassador. "These past 25 years have a struggle but I still enjoy cooking; it's a great way to entertain people and impart our history, culture and food knowledge to others."

Chef Wan with his daughter-in-law and son, Riz

Star support ... fellow celeb chefs Azrah and Florence Tan at the book launch

After a quarter century in the business, the busy bee still has bigger fish to fry. Besides working on his food encyclopedia project to document and preserve the country's Malay food heritage, plans are afoot to make Chef Wan Asian Culinary Academy a reality.

"The school will be devoted to teach not only Malaysian but also Asian cuisine such as Thai, Indonesian, etc. It's a shame that we don't have enough chefs who are skilled in our regional cuisine. My culinary academy aims to plug this gap and concentrate on offering Malay/Asian cooking courses. I want to place everything under one roof; initiate a diploma for South-east Asian culinary studies and hold interactive classes where people can learn how to cook basic or special dishes, keep young people occupied and maintain our culinary heritage. I also plan to help underprivileged kids who dream of becoming chefs via the Chef Wan Foundation."

The food ambassador believes that we need to maintain and protect our food culture and heritage.

"Food's the only thing that binds people together.We have to be proud of our food as it gives us a sense of belonging. If there's something that I can change, I'd form a Ministry of Food," said Chef Wan. "We need to get our food right, a body to educate our people to cook quality food. It's sad we're letting foreign workers butcher our food and have tourists eating badly cooked local food at filthy eateries that use cheap ingredients. We must get back on the right track.

"That's why some feel offended when I speak out. They can't take my criticisms but I'm just doing my job by telling the truth. When you're honest, you have nothing to fear."

Although he has appeared briefly in the AFC-E&O's Next Celebrity Chef show, Chef Wan is no fan of reality TV.

"People get so excited about reality TV shows but my advice is don't expect too much out of them. Most are overly dramatic and it can be demeaning to those participating. You can be harsh but not rude.I don't believe in putting people down and breaking their spirit. One must be hard, tough and strong in the kitchen so cut out all the crying and drama. There's no place in the kitchen for egoistic chefs."

He firmly believes that it takes more than good cooking skills to be a TV celebrity chef. "Experience counts as well as one's self-confidence, knowledge and effective communication skill - the ability to teach and explain things.

Having travelled the world and tasted countless dishes, Chef Wan declares that the best dish in the world is still his mother's nasi goreng with ikan bilis, sambal belacan and egg.

For youngsters who are starting out in life, Chef Wan reminds them that life is a challenge and filled with choices.

"Young people must have spirit - love yourself, your country, culture, etc. Never be afraid of making mistakes. That's why I told my son that he should apologise for padding up him resume. Take responsibility for it and move on."

The veteran chef who turned 54 in January this year said in parting: "In life, one must be compassionate. Have self-respect and love for humanity. People will remember the good things you do."

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