Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Malacca - ThE 2nd outing

Malacca, with its slow and relax atmosphere is a magnet for a group of us and to top it off, "Good Food" is found in nooks and crevices. We have found a few gems on this trip and are all worth trying... To start off, while the more famous "Peranakan Restaurant" is highly touted for serving good peranakan food, we beg to differ and dined at this little restaurant we missed during our last visit.

  • Restoran Nancy's Kitchen, 15 Jalan Hang Lekir, located in a small lane just off Jalan Hang Jebat, this little place pale in comparison in terms of size but makes up for the good food. We had the following:
    • Ayam Buah Keluak, the generous topping of buah keluak is a delight accompanied by the pieces of chicken cooked in a nice mild sauce. This dish taste like a home-cooked version, very real and genuine. No mock ups!

    • Hee Piow Soup, also called Fish maw soup is like what I've tasted while I was growing up. The fish maw does not smell of stale oil and the meatball has good taste and texture. The addition of cabbage brings a little sweetness to the soup. A dish worth trying.

    • Sambal Sayur Keledek known as Sweet Potato leaves fried in sambal paste with a little gravy. The generous serving of the leaves cook till just right, you can feel the crunch when biting into the stems goes very well with the steam rice.

    • Fried fish fillet with Sambal, the used of Dory fish fillet is cleverly seasoned then deep-fried with a thin layer of crumbs. After which, its topped with a generous amount of sambal chili tumis and garnish with coriander leaf. This dish is surprisingly light even though its deep-fried and the oil used is clean.

    • Fried Brinjal, a simple yet appetizing dish! The brinjal is not over-cooked and the sambal chili gravy that accompanies it is subtle and not overpowering though the over-sprinkling of fried shallots is not appreciated.

    • Sek Bak or braised pork belly with spices is nicely done. The five spice and star anise in soya sauce brings the meat to another level. The dish is also accompanied with servings of braised tofu and eggs topped with coriander leaf.

    • The meal is completed with a good cup of "Honey & Lime" or a home brewed "Sour Plum with Honey" drink. All in all, a good meal for the price!

  • Popiah, this stall located just outside the Mary King department store, Jalan Bunga Raya, is a local's favourite. A delicate thin piece of rice flour is smeared with sweet sauce and chilli then filled to the brim with a generous amount of very well stewed coarsely chopped turnips, omelette, tofu and the most sinful, fried lard to add flavour and crunch. Try and see the difference though you will not crave for more...

  • Durian, the king of fruit is something we can't simply ignore! You will find stalls selling these thornies and here you get good quality ones coupled with very reasonable prices. Durian eaters out there, have a go at these fellas... Wooo hooo....!

  • Dinner at a seafood restaurant in Malacca is never daunting, prices are reasonable and quality is of high standard. We had ours at Restaurant Lu Yeh Yen, 154A Jalan Bunga Raya, just round the corner if you are staying at Hotel Renaissance. The menu is pretty decent and some of the dishes sampled are:
    • Salt-baked Crab, this dish comes across as unappetizing and not well presented. Pieces of chopped up crabs were scattered on a big plate. Take a bite and you will find that all is forgotten. The crab is infused with the taste of salt and coupled with the sweet tasting meat of the crab, it's something to swoon over... Never judge a book by its cover

    • Fried Mee Suah, while we were all busy enjoying our crabs, we all but forgotten about the photos of this dish. Nonetheless, this vermicelli dish comes with a generous topping of prawns, sweet pork, and vegetables. The vermicelli is fried "Al Dente" and its not too soggy.

    • Steam Prawns, this is a dish we were all caught by surprise as we expected steam prawns with shells on but to our surprise, it was nicely de-shelled and steam in a sea of eggs with ginger slices, chopped spring onions and a good load of chinese wine. Well, no complaints as its another nice change...

    • Sweet & Sour Pork Ribs or "Pai Kwok Wong" as ordered in the Cantonese language. Again, the stomach got the better of us and photo was the last thing on our mind. Tells you how good a dish this was... In short, Try it, you will like it!!!

    • We also had two servings of vegetables fried with garlic which we like albeit it was slightly on the oily side. That's why the chrysanthemum tea is here for... A good meal that's worth the buck.

  • Wondering along Jalan Tan Cheng Lock, we stopped at The Coconut House for supper. On the menu was a delectable range of pizzas, pastas, main dishes and desserts. Our "Four Seasons" pizza arrived baked in a wood-fired oven, fully loaded with generous toppings of asparagus, pancetta, mushrooms, olives and though the bull mozarella was not available, we had a load of other cheeses. The crust was thin and crisp with the pancetta giving the saltiness and balance.
    We made space for 2 desserts, the Panna Cotta with Raspberry sauce and Hazelnut Pudding with Chocolate Sauce". The panna cotta reign supreme compared to the Hazelnut pudding which was a tad dry and tasted more like a muffin. Still, this is a place to try when you're in this little town.

  • Apart from the famous nyonya chendol, Malacca has another version which is styled in the local version. This stall located directly opposite the clock tower near The Stadhuys serves this in a small bowl filled with red bean, coconut milk, gula melaka and chendol topped with a generous amount of shaved ice. Though not as rich as the peranakan version, its very refreshing on a hot day. Have a go...
  • Saturday, August 12, 2006

    Bangkok Great Eats

    Bangkok also known in Thai as Krung Thep, the capital of Thailand, well known for the "sleaze" and shopping has got many wonderful eating places, from the roadside stalls of Chinatown to fine dining at The Oriental, you get it all...
    During our many visits to this bustling city, a visit to the roadside stalls along Chinatown for a meal is a must and here are a few of our favourites,

  • Wanton noodle stall, located diagonally opposite White Orchid Hotel, near the zebra crossing. The stall is family-runned and helm by the father assisted by the son while the mother serves. The noodle comes served either dry or soup with a generous topping of "char siew" or bbq sweet pork, little pork dumplings and a good dollop of garlic chips infused in oil together with bit size pieces of deep-fried lard. Ahhhh, its simply wonderful and chili powder can be added if you like your noodles spicy then topped it off with a glass of ice cold tea (cha dam yen) from the drinks stall next to it.

  • Wondering along, you will see a stall selling "Kway chap" or pig's offal soup, here, the inards are served in a peppery broth together with a bowl of rice or you can also have it with dough fritters. The offals are well cleaned to rid the smell, cooked till tender and served in a wonderful pepper broth together with slices of crackling roasted pork belly. Try this if you are game for some pig offals...

  • The next stop, is the "Pad Thai" stall located in a small lane perpendicular to Yaowarat road, in-front of a 7-11 store. The boss of the stall is a lady who is also the one frying the noodles. The thin rice noodles are fried in a hot wok with a good amount of vegetable oil, no longer lard (health reasons) together with dried shrimps, cabbage, dried and pickled radish with a splash of fish sauce to taste. When ordering, you have a choice of having an egg added and can further enhance it when served with chili powder or sugar if desired. Be prepared to wait as with all the other stalls.

  • Well, you must be wondering, how can a trip to Bangkok chinatown be complete without having some sharks fin and bird's nest, here it is,

  • Nam Sing Restaurant is one place we patronise for sharks fin, bird's nest and other wonderful dishes.
    • Sharks fin soup, you can have your fins in clear or starchy broth which the latter is never consistent. Go for the clear broth as it's so much more refreshing. The prices varies with the types of fins you order, naturally the bigger the better.

    • Fried fish maw, this is fried dry style with spring onions and spices. The fish maw used are thick and does not smell rancid which will be the case if the oil used to fry the fish maw is dirty or used too many times.

    • Stewed goose web where the pieces are well marinated and so tender that the skin just falls off from the bones.

    • Baked crab in vermicelli where the crab is cooked in a thick garlic and pepper sauce and the vermicelli so flavourful after absorbing the juices. It's got the "Ummph" factor....

    • Grilled prawns, the use of butter to flavour this dish is subtle with generous sprinkling of garlic and then grilled over charcoal fire to give that wonderful taste. The flesh is firm and chunky and cooked just right.

    • Fried noodles, the chef has got a good grip on this dish. The vermicelli is fried just right, not too soggy or dry with a good amount of seafood topping.

    • To complete the meal, a bowl of Bird's nest with ginko nuts, option of choosing between hot or cold. The other good thing about this restaurant, you can have free-flow of ice cold chrysanthemum tea. Ahhhh...

    Having had our Chinatown fix, we also visited several other great dining places scattered all over the city.

  • Bei Otto, this restaurant situated on Soi 20 Sukhumvit serves german and european food. They serve one of the best pork knuckle I have tasted, well seasoned and the crackling of the skin is just wonderful, accompanied with a good serving of sauerkraut and all washed down with a cold "Erdinger" bier. Also good are the schnitzels and sausages. In particular, the veal sausages, they are grilled to perfection with a subtle taste of spices served with onions, mashed and vegetables. If your stomach can still accomodate, try the apple streudel served with ice cream. It has a nice filling not too overpowering with cinnamon and a good crust.

  • Ban Chiang, located at 14 Soi Si Wiang, is an old, restored Thai house that serves good Thai food and Isan specialities. For appetisers, we had thai sausages which were well seasoned accompanied with peanuts, lime pieces, and other condiments, pomelo salad with the right zing, thai fish cakes and the crispy catfish that was so wonderfully done. Well, we just had to try the Tom Yam Kung and it came out beautiful with the right level of spiciness and flavour. The next dish was the yellow chicken curry, a mild curry with nice aroma and chunky chicken pieces cooked in generous amount of coconut milk. It was next followed by my favourite, green curry beef. Though this is a common dish found everywhere, no one does it as well as this guys, you just have to try it!!! We also had stir-fried morning glory that was a tad saltish but on the whole, was good with nice crunchy stems together with steam rice. To complete our meal, we had the Taro dessert which was wonderful but a little too sweet for my liking and several glasses of ice cold lemongrass tea. My verdict, good value for the quality.

  • Prik Kee Noo located at Sivadon Building on Soi Convent, Silom is a good place for local thai fare. The green mango salad is fantastic, not overly spicy and the sour tang just right. The signature salad of yam prik kee noo is also a sure bet. I am a freak for green curry and this place serves a decent one with good consistency. The curry is not too watery, spices mixed well and with chunks of meat. During lunch, the office crowd will flock to this place as they served good quality lunch sets at more than reasonable price. For that, you get a main dish, a side dish accompanied by steam rice. If you want to have the lunch special, make sure you go early and beat the crowd else you will have to wait for a seat or maybe try the wanton noodle(entree size) while waiting at the stall just outside before going for your lunch proper.

  • Somboon Seafood, located at Ratchadapisek road is my preferred choice though the restaurant chain has four outlets and the one most mentioned is at Suriwongse road. Choose from the many tanks of live seafood, mud crabs, prawns, lobsters and fishes and have them cook the way you want it. The steamed mud crabs(make sure you get the female crabs) is chokeful of roe, yummy.... If you like prawns, go for grilled garlic prawns and also wonderful is the steam fish, be it Sea Bass, Grouper or whatever is available. The seasoning is well-balanced and it comes garnished with abundant coriander leaf and condiments. When you're here, the house speciality, Crab Curry is a must try together with the Tom yang goong... The menu is extensive and staff is friendly. You will not go wrong at this place...!

  • Thor Plue, at Chatuchak weekend market is another place we frequent. The restaurant is really crowded even though they have expanded. On a hot day after your rigours of browsing thru the warm alleys of the market, its nice to get a seat and have a meal here. The duck red curry served with rolled-up vermicelli is good as is the fried spicy glass noodles. Here, the glass noodles come in pieces instead of strands and is fried with a spicy mix of seafood and long beans. A class in its own! Thai fish cakes and salads are good too. Wash all these down with a cold glass of beer, fruit juice or ice lemon tea for a fulfilling meal. The desserts are nothing fantastic though.

  • Dessert stalls located at the Old Siam Plaza, is a place for people with sweet tooth. These stalls at the atrium level sells a wide array of sweets & desserts and there's a particular one that sells glutinuous rice with yam whereby its cook till a sticky consistency with cubes of yam then drizzled with coconut milk. Also good is the banana with sago in coconut milk, have a pick at the many combinations they have to offer and the best thing, its just Bt10 a bowl. Visit this little shopping centre, located near Wang Burapa and Pahurat and very close to Chalerm Krung Theater if you crave for all things sweet.

  • Fuji Japanese Restaurant on the ground floor of Lotus Rama I is one of many Fuji outlets scattered all over Bangkok. The menu is pretty extensive and the pricing reasonable. The avocado train is good, made in the shape of a train as the name suggest, has got salmon wrapped in sushi rice and then wrapped with a layer of avocado slices and topped with a small drop of mayonaisse. Another dish to try is the salmon mentai, asparagus and cucumber juliens wrapped up in a "jelly-roll" style using a generous slice of salmon then drizzled with a slightly spicy ebiko laden sauce and garnished with watercress. The next dish to try, thinly sliced Tai sashimi nicely fanned out on a plate served with a sauce tasting like ponzu with a good squeeze of lime. The bento sets are good value and the lunch set a steal. Have a go at the grilled beef, though thin, the fillet of beef is grilled to perfection accompanied with a tangy bordering to teriyaki sauce. The shabu shabu is also a good bet with abundant meat and vegetables in a pot. The list goes on.... I must say, this outlet serves better quality food compared to the ones at Siam centre and MBK. They also operate a more expensive chain of restaurants call Shin Daikoku frequented by the business people and expatriate japanese.

  • MBK Food Centre, frequented by locals and tourist alike, this food paradise is located on the 6th floor of the well-known Mah Boon Krung shopping centre. It is a clean place and you will find a wide array of local delights to tempt your taste buds. The stewed pork leg served with steam rice and salted vegetables is well done. The meat is tender and not too oily, accompanied with the vinegarish chili sauce, this dish is wonderful and a must have for me. The mixed beef soup, a sea of lean beef, beef balls, tripes, liver and tendon in a wonderfully flavoured stock makes a good side dish. Make a trip here for an initial induction to thai hawker fare or if you are brave, try the roadside stalls next to the Big C mall near Arnoma hotel. I must say, its real good if your stomach is strong enough. On another note, I have recently found another place that serve good stewed pork leg, its at another foodcourt, located on the 2nd floor of Lotus on Rama I.

  • Dim Sum in Bangkok anyone? After all things Thai and such, a good break for me is to have a decent "yum cha" for a change and also to avoid the scorching sun. Located on the 3rd floor of The Twin Towers Hotel, Fu Marn Lau is a traditional chinese restaurant serving cantonese and chiu chow dishes. Here, the dim sum is buffet style with the usual suspects like "Siew mai, har kow, char siew pau, steamed pork ribs, stewed chicken feet" and more... The standard of food is pretty good and certain things like the noodles are cooked on request. Locals will frequent this place on weekends and small tour groups are also a feature. All in all, a nice place to sit back, have a slow dim sum lunch and drink your tea...

  • The journey continues...